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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Bonita Mabo

1994 (printed 2011)
Lorrie Graham

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 50.4 cm x 41.1 cm, image: 27.1 cm x 27.0 cm)

Bonita Mabo AO (c. 1943–2018), South Sea Islander activist, was the widow of Torres Strait Islander land claimant Eddie Mabo. Born near Ingham, she was a descendant of Ni-Vanuatu workers (formerly known as 'Kanaks') who were taken to Queensland to work in substandard conditions on sugar plantations between about 1860 and 1904. She married Eddie Mabo in Ingham in 1959; they were to become parents of ten. In 1972, disenchanted with the education her children were receiving, she set up Australia's first Aboriginal community school. She supported Eddie through his historic land claim, but said 'I was his wife, but that's as far as it went … I've got nothing to do with the land'. An advocate for reconciliation for all Australians, especially between Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander peoples, she spoke frequently of the need to 'work together as one to fight for our rights'.

Lorrie Graham began her photographic career as the first female photography cadet at the Sydney Morning Herald. She has since become one of Australia's most celebrated photojournalists. This 1994 portrait of Bonita was taken two years after Eddie's death. As Graham noted: 'when I met Bonita Mabo it was her strength, warmth and quiet confidence that impressed me, she is inspirational.'

Purchased 2011
© Lorrie Graham

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Lorrie Graham (age 40 in 1994)

Bonita Mabo (age 51 in 1994)

Subject professions

Activism

Education and research

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency