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Eddie Mabo

1937 – 1992

Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1937 - 92) was born and lived in the Torres Strait until 1959 when he moved to the mainland. He emerged as a leader in the Torres Strait Islander community in Townsville, Queensland where he was instrumental in founding the Aboriginal and Islander Health Service. He was also co-founder and director of the Townsville black community school which was one of the first institutions of its kind in Australia. Mabo is best known for the instigation, with four other Torres Strait Islanders, of legal proceedings to establish traditional ownership of their land. This action, known as the Mabo case, was finalized in 1992, after going through the Queensland Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia. It was decided in 1992 that the Mer people (from Murray Island) were the traditional owners of the land. This was a significant ruling which refuted the idea of terra nullius and led to the Native Title Bill of 1993. Mabo died of cancer four months before the court delivered its findings. The Australian Newspaper named him their Australian of the Year in 1993. The Mabo papers are held by the National Library of Australia.

Updated 2004
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