Tranby's origins date back to 1952 when the Australian Board of Missions (ABM) employed the Reverend Alf Clint as Director of Co-operatives in Australia and New Guinea.
After Alf helped establish successful Indigenous co-operatives in many communities throughout the Torres Strait, NSW and QLD, he was given the ‘Tranby’ building in Glebe by Reverend John Hope of Christ Church St. Laurence for the use of the Co-operative. The Co-operative for Aborigines Ltd. was established in 1962 and since then it has become an independent, non-profit benevolent society.
Alf Clint passed away in 1980 and Kevin Cook became the first Indigenous General Secretary of the Co-operative which has since become a criterion for the position.
In his time with Tranby, Cook was instrumental in establishing various political lobby groups advocating for a wide range of Aboriginal issues including the Bicentennial of Australia and Black Deaths in Custody. He remained as Director of Tranby until 1997 and is widely credited with developing the organisation into the important cultural institution it is today. Kevin Cook was followed consecutively by Jack Beetson, Oomera Edwards, Paul Knight, Lindon Coombes, Kristy Masella, Bob Morgan and Tranby's current Chief Executive Officer Dr Belinda Russon.
The co-operative principles of communal ownership and self-management and the philosophy of shared working and learning environments remain fundamental to the organisation.