Eddie Mabo

By Ruby Charge

Eddie's Family

These are Eddie Mabo and Bonita Mabo's seven [7] children and three [3] adopted children.Gail Mabo, Wannee, Celuia, Bethal, Ezra, Mal, Eddie Junior, Mario, Malita, Maria Jessie. This is Eddie's wife Bonita Mabo (nee Nehow) was born in Halifax, Northern Queensland, and is a traditional owner of nearby Palm Island. Bonita also has South Sea Islander ancestry with family ties in Vanuatu, and is a descendant of "Kanakas" initially removed to Australia to work as cutters on the Queensland cane fields. She met Eddie Koiki Mabo in 1958 in a shanty town on the edge of a sugar plantation, and they married at the Methodist Church in Ingham, North Queensland, the following year. Bonita always supported Eddie's fight for native title to be recognised on Murray Island, but since his death in 1992 has been a leading voice in support of the rights of the South Sea Islanders in Australia.

Mabo day

3 June - Mabo Day

Mabo Day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgement in 1992 in the Mabo case. This is a day of particular significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo’s name is synonymous with native title rights. His story began in May 1982 when he and fellow Murray (Mer) Islanders David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Salee instituted a claim in the High Court for native title to the Murray (Mer) Islands in the Torres Strait.

The claim was made against the State of Queensland, which responded by seeking to legislate to extinguish retrospectively any native title on the Islands. This was challenged in the High Court on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. The High Court, in an historical judgement delivered on 3 June 1992, accepted the claim by Eddie Mabo and the other claimants that their people (the Meriam people) had occupied the Islands of Mer for hundreds of years before the arrival of the British. The High Court found that the Meriam people were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of lands in the Murray Islands.’ The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (a land belonging to no one) at the time of British colonisation.