Who was Eddie Mabo?

Edward “Eddie” Koiki Mabo was a Meriam (from the island of Mer, located in the Torres Strait) man  who played an important role in a land rights case in the High Court of Australia, which is now referred to as the ‘Mabo Case’.

Eddie Mabo was born on the 29th of June, 1936, on the Mer island in the Torres Strait. Mabo’s mother had died during child birth, therefore Mabo was adopted by his uncle, Benny Mabo. From an early age Mabo began to learn about his family’s land. In 1959, Mabo moved to Townsville in Queensland, having various jobs such us working on pearling boats, cutting cane and as a railway fettler. In the same year, Mabo married Bonita Neehow, an Australian South Sea Islander. Mabo went on to have 10 children (3 adopted). Mabo was an activist during the 1967 referendum campaign for ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) land rights and also helped to form the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service. 

On the 20th of May, 1982, Mabo and some of his fellow Mer Islanders began their claim for ownership of their lands on the island of the Mer with the High Court of Australia. Mabo was named as the first plaintiff. Ten years later after Mabo’s death (died by cancer, aged 55), on the 3rd of June, 1992, the High Court of Australia decided in favor of Eddie Mabo and his fellow plaintiffs.


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