Humanities and Social Sciences

Civic Citizenship

Council handbook

Council is one of the three tiers of government in Australia. It has a specific set of functions and responsibilities, and plays an important role in improving the liveability of local communities. Our Council Handbook ( PDF, 5.33 MB ) explains:

  • What Council does
  • How we fund Council work
  • The type of jobs available within Council
  • What our Councillors do
  • The structure of Council
  • Information about Cairns including history and population, to our parks and gardens, sustainability, industry, and arts and culture.

Printed copies of the Handbook are available on request. Email us at to request copies for your students.  You can also read it as an e-book below or download the Council Handbook ( PDF, 5.33 MB ).

Council tours

We welcome organised school visits to Council’s administration building where one of our Councillors will take students through the Council Chambers. Visits vary in length depending on your requirements and we can adapt tours to your specific needs (including requests for presentations from specific Council departments).

  • Tours are not available on Wednesdays due to Council meetings.
  • Requests must be made at least one month in advance.

Phone 4044 3020 or via email

Council timeline

The first local government of Cairns, the Cairns Divisional Board, was established in 1879. Since then there have been amalgamations and de-amalgamations. Below is a short history of the Cairns Regional Council.

1879: Cairns Divisional Board formed

1885: Cairns Divisional Board divided into Divisional Board and Cairns Municipal Council

Cairns Divisional Board

1902: Cairns Divisional Board becomes Cairns Shire Council

1940: Cairns Shire Council becomes Mulgrave Shire Council

1995:  Mulgrave Shire Council merges with Cairns City Council

Cairns Municipal Council

1923: Cairns Municipal Council becomes Cairns City Council

Cairns Regional Council

2008: formed from the amalgamation of Cairns City Council and Douglas Shire Council

2014: Douglas Shire reforms after deamalgamation with Cairns Regional Council


Visit our facts, figures and history web page for information on:

  • Cairns historic milestones
  • Street names and suburb history
  • Council timeline
  • Indigenous culture and history
  • Heritage trails

Library heritage resources

Phone 4044 3730 or contact via the Cairns Libraries website

The Regional Resources Collection is housed at the City Library and contains titles which relate to Cairns and the FNQ area, including information on the history, culture, environment, and the development of the region.  This collection, which may not be borrowed, includes:

  • Books relating to the history, culture, geography and development of the region, including locally authored and published material.
  • Material published by local organisations
  • Street directories
  • Profiles, reports and studies produced by local government
  • The Cairns Post (1884-1893, 1909-present) on microfilm
  • Maps (including topographical, nautical, cadastral, and aerial)

The City Library also holds an extensive collection of books, microfiche, microfilm, and CD-ROMS to assist with researching family history. The collection mainly focuses on Australian material with an emphasis on Queensland.

  • Birth, Death and Marriage indexes for all Australian states and territories accessible through or any of our seven Cairns library branches.
  • The Cairns Post newspaper on microfilm
  • Cemetery indexes and monumental inscriptions, including theCairns Cemeteries database
  • Early directories, electoral rolls,
  • naturalisations and convict indents
  • Guides to researching cultural and ethnic groups as well as specific countries
  • Pre - 1856 NSW Birth, Death and Marriage certificates are available on microfilm
  • Pre - 1900 Tasmanian Birth, Death and Marriage certificates available on microfilm* Immigration and shipping records

McLeod Street Pioneer Cemetery

This heritage registered Pioneer Cemetery is located alongside the Kuranda-Cairns railway line. It holds a wealth of information about the early residents of the district.

Educational resources

Guided walks

Cairns and District Family History Society, in conjunction with Cairns Regional Council, provides both primary and secondary schools with guided walks through McLeod Street Pioneer Cemetery. During the walk students will actively learn about the history of the cemetery, interpretation of the headstones and stories of some of the early pioneers and what life was like in their time.

The Cairns and District Family History Society will provide support to ensure the walk is tailored to specific curriculum objectives.

For bookings, contact the Cairns and District Family History Society Inc at

Tanks Arts Centre history tours

Take your students on a free, guided tour of the Tanks Arts Centre – and let us tailor this to suit your specific age group needs and curriculum objectives, with topics covered including:

  • History - exploring the role the Tanks played in WWII and how the oil storage facility was used
  • Visual Art - with a curator’s talk about a current exhibition
  • Venue Management - with a behind-the-scenes tour of a multi-arts centre
  • Architecture - with a talk about the design challenges and solutions for the Tanks Arts Centre and/or the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre

Tours include up to half an hour with a Tanks Arts Centre staff member plus self-guided inspection of the current exhibition and site.

School visits are welcome any time during opening hours, but guided tours must be booked.

TO BOOK A TOUR: or phone 4032 6600

Natural disasters

Council has created a suite of education resources focused on the natural hazards that can impact the Cairns region.

The materials include classroom activities, experiments, background information and lesson plans aligned to the Australian Curriculum.

Council's Disaster Management team staff can visit your school to discuss natural hazards either as one-on-one sessions with teachers or classroom discussions. School excursions to the Local Disaster Coordination Centre are also possible. Please contact the Disaster Management Unit on 1300 69 22 47 or by email to

Local Laws

Local Laws govern most of Council's roles and responsibilities including parking, swimming pools, advertising signage, animal control, outdoor dining, overgrown allotments, pests and weeds, and nuisances such as noise and dust.

Pets & animal management

Animal owners are responsible for caring for your pet or pets and ensuring they comply with relevant Local Laws and State legislation.

Council's Animal Management team take part in school visits throughout the Cairns region. These visits, called Petpep, are organised by the Australian Veterinary Association.

Last updated: 16 June 2020