The Cairns Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League (CATSIAL) was a product of its place and time. Conditions in far north Queensland were conductive to the formation of such a body in the late 1950s. This article investigates these conditions, introduces key Cairns Aboriginal activists and explores the relationships between these activists and their non-Indigenous supporters. Drawing on the work of labour historians who have explored the concept of ‘community’ in labour studies it argues that a community of the Left existed within which the Cairns League could operate successfully. This community, while initially spatially based, broadened to become a community in which shared ideology overcame spatial separation so that the Cairns activists influenced national events despite their isolation from the centres of power.