The Torres Strait Taxi Driver Who Made Paralympic History

8 June 2021

Associate Professor Gary Osmond from UQ's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences has revealed an amazing tale about a Torres Strait Islander taxi driver 'Harry Mosby' who at 21 lost both his legs and went on to make Paralympic History.

To the locals on Thursday Island, Harry Mosby was a popular member of the community who liked a game of darts or pool and made a living driving one of the island’s few taxis.

Some knew Mosby had been one of the hundreds of young Torres Strait Islander men who’d worked building railway lines in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. It’s where the then-21-year-old had lost both his legs when they were crushed by a train carriage.

Yet, when he returned to his island home off the tip of Cape York in Far North Queensland a decade later, no one – not even his younger brothers – knew that during his time away Mosby had represented Australia at the 1976 Toronto Paralympics, becoming the only Torres Strait Islander Paralympian, and won a silver medal.

Mosby’s extraordinary story has become a passion for University of Queensland sports historian Gary Osmond, who would like to see the late Para-athlete recognised alongside the 12 other Indigenous Australians who have competed at the Paralympics. It’s a tale that may never have been revealed if not for Osmond picking up on “a throwaway line” he heard while he was researching for the Australian Paralympic History Project.

“I found an oral history interview at the National Library with [Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame member] Frank Ponta, who’s now deceased,” Osmond said.

“In that interview, Frank said that at the Toronto Games in ‘76 there was a big Thursday Islander, Harry Mosby. I thought ‘Thursday Islander? That doesn’t make sense’. I looked up Wikipedia and it said that Harry had competed at the Paralympics in ‘76 but that he was from Western Australia. I thought maybe Frank had made a mistake.”

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