June 9, 2016

2602 AUSTRALIA - Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992)

Eddie Koiki Mabo was an Indigenous community leader and human rights activist who achieved national prominence as the successful principal plaintiff in the landmark High Court of Australia ruling on native land title. In 1992 the historic Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia recognised traditional land rights for Australian Indigenous People, overturning the legal doctrine of terra nullius (land belonging to nobody) which characterised Australian law with regard to land and title.

He was born Edward Koiki Sambo on 29 June 1936, on Murray Island in the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, as the son of Robert Zezou Sambo and Annie Mabo of the Piadaram clan. His mother died in childbirth and he was adopted under customary law by his mother's brother, Benny Mabo, and his wife, Maiga to raise as their son. Thus he became Edward Koiki Mabo and from an early age, he learned about his family's land, traditions and heritage.

At the primary school he was a bright student and one of his teachers encouraged him to learn English with a view to possible later employment on the mainland. When Koiki was sixteen a romance led to his being exiled to the mainland. He found work on pearling boats, then had various jobs including canecutter and railway fettler. In 1959, Koiki married Bonita Nehow whose family had been brought from Vanuatu to work in the cane fields. Koiki and Bonita eventually settled in Townsville and raised nine children.

In Townsville, Koiki Mabo became a spokesperson for the Torres Strait Islander community and was involved with the trade union movement and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League. From 1981 to 1984 he studied for a Diploma of Teaching at Townsville College of Advanced Education and James Cook University. He was a skilled performer and teacher of Meriam song and dance, and in the mid 80s he became a member of the National Aboriginal Education Committee.

In 1981, a Land Rights' Conference was held at James Cook University. Mabo made a speech about land ownership and inheritance on Mer. A lawyer suggested there should be a test case to claim land rights through the court system. Five Meriam men, Eddie Koiki Mabo, Sam Passi, Father Dave Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee, decided they would challenge for land rights in the High Court of Australia. In May 1982, led by Mabo, they began their legal claim for ownership of their lands.

Mabo died of cancer at the age of 55, on 21 January 1992. Five months later, on 3 June 1992, the High Court announced the overturning the legal doctrine of terra nullius. The judges held that British possession had not eliminated the Meriam people's title and that "the Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the lands of the Murray Islands". This decision altered the foundation of land law in Australia, and is now commonly called "Mabo".

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Eddie Mabo - Wikipedia
Edward Koiki Mabo 1936-1992 - Racism Noway

Sender: Heather (direct swap)
Sent from Perth (Western Australia / Australia), on 25.09.2013

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