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Our History

Our History

For the past 70 years, Cootharinga has been part of our community, working alongside people with disabilities and their families. It’s a lot of history to look back on, and a great opportunity to look forward and imagine our future.

Cootharinga is a profit-for-purpose, charitable community organisation that plays a major role in North and far North Queensland communities by supporting people who live with disabilities.

Our history demonstrates how a group of caring and committed citizens can start a chain of events that changed the world for people with disabilities.

Cootharinga was founded in 1951 in response to community concerns for the care, education and training of children who contracted poliomyelitis during the poliomyelitis epidemic. Cootharinga was originally called the North Queensland Society for Crippled Children.

The official opening of the Cootharinga Home for Crippled Children in Townsville on 22 June, 1957 was the fulfilment of more than six years of volunteering and hard work since Cootharinga had been established. 70 years on, we have grown throughout North and far North Queensland with over 1000 staff and customers building a better world with people of all abilities. 

In 1991, the North Queensland Society for Crippled Children changed its name to Cootharinga Society of North Queensland, with the focus going from disability to ability and from institutionalised settings to community-based environments. Today it is known as Cootharinga North Queensland.

While the original poliomyelitis epidemic has passed, the need for Cootharinga and our valuable work has not. Today Cootharinga operates throughout Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Mount Isa, and far North Queensland.

Our History

The 1950's & 1960's
  • Formation of the North QLD Society for Crippled Children.
  • Cootharinga Nursing Home Official Opening May 1957.
  • Official Opening of the Matron and Nurses quarters at Cootharinga in May 1961.
  • Nursing home extended in 1968.
The 1970's & 1980's
  • De-institutionalisation commenced.
  • Casa Martinez, the first purpose built house in the community is opened. Named Casa Martinez in honour of the Society’s longest serving President and the driving force behind the project, Dom Martinez.
  • Special education and training Centre opened. Later housed administration and the library.
The 1990's
  • Further three purpose built accessible houses opening in Townsville. As well as in Cairns and one in Mackay.
  • Change of name to the Cootharinga Society of North Queensland in 1991.
  • Commenced Rehabilitation Technology Service in 1992.
  • Started Family Support Service in 1993.
  • Accessible house in Mount Isa.
  • Closure of Cootharinga Nursing Home.
  • Commenced Individual Support Service.
  • Closure of Mount Isa Accessible House.
2000 to 2005
  • Achieved Accreditation ISO 9001:2000.
  • Babinda Bargain Centre opened in 2002.
  • Became a member of Ability First Australia.
  • Purchased property at Keane Street for the Head Office and RTS.
  • Assisted individuals to move from Casa Martinez to Gardenia Ave - Smaller accessible accomodation in suburban streetscape.
  • Affiliation with Easter Seals in the USA.
2006 to 2010
  • Launch of Respite Service on Townsville and Mackay.
  • Opening of the Activity and Respite Centre.
  • Building of Leila Ave (Townsville), Little St (Cairns) and Meadow St (Mackay) - New Accessible Housing.
2011 to 2014
  • Our Recently established Autism Service expands to children with all types of disabilities.
  • Purchase of land at North Shore for future accessible housing projects.
  • Commenced focused support for School Leavers.
  • Build three new accessible houses at north shore, achieving first Platinum Standard Certification in Australia. It is now home to four adults.
  • Launch of Parent Connect Service Rockhampton and Townsville.
  • Launch of My Time Support and Playgroup.
  • Re-established supports in Mount Isa and secured building in Mount Isa for School Leavers Program.
  • Commenced preparations for introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
  • Launch of Your Life Your Choice (YLYC) in 2014.
2015 to 2016
  • Purchased more land in Townsville for Accessible Housing.
  • Opened new office in Mackay
  • Commenced construction of Kinnardy Street, Townsville.
  • Early launch of NDIS in Queensland for children with a disability, under 18 years of age living in Townsville and Charters Towers and up to 65 years of age living on Palm Island, the announcement was made by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Cootharinga Head Office on 25 September 2015.
  • Purchased more land in Mooroobool, Cairns for accessible housing.
  • Whole organisational restructure for more commercial approach under NDIS.
  • New customer service department, Customer Connect.
  • Opened the 1800 Cootharinga Centre at 264 Woolcock Street, Townsville, to house Customer Connect and Allied Health Services.
  • Launch of Glencore Community Hub in Mount Isa.
2017 to 2019
  • Acquired an aged care facility in Babinda, Abbeyfield and re-branded as Cootharinga Gardens
  • Opened new office spaces in Charters Towers and Normanton
  • Opened the Community and Activity Hub in Townsville
  • Skills and Transition program was introduced to the Cairns region
  • Allied Health Services expanded to the Mackay region
  • 18th Annual Charity Golf Day held in May 2019
2019  to now
  • Merged with CPL - Choice, Passion, Life to become a subsidiary of the CPL Group
  • Opened two new SDA houses in Townsville
  • Opened a new office space in Croydon
  • The Accommodation and Recreation Centre (ARC) underwent major renovations after damage was received from the 2019 floods
  • Equipment Solutions team leader Jeff Parsons was nominated for, and won, a Pride of Workmanship Award from Rotary
    Port of Townsville in Oct 2019
  • A total of 6,782 volunteer hours were given by our wonderful volunteers despite a reduction in volunteer roles due to COVID-19
  • Promoted aan inclusive and accessible community by building strong community relationships and donating a powered pool hoist to The Zoo Health and Fitness in Townsville, and a Bariatric wheelchair to the Mackay Aquatic and Recreation Complex
  • Marking our 70th-year milestone throughout 2021-2022