About Eddie Koiki Mabo
Born: 29th June 1936
Where: Community of Las on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait (also known as Murray Island)
Family: Raised by his Uncle, Benny Mabo, following the death of his mother during childbirth
At the age of 16, Eddie was exiled from Murray Island for breaking customary law. He moved to mainland Queensland, where he worked at various jobs, including deck hand, cane cutter and railway labourer.
In 1959, aged twenty-three, Eddie married Bonita Nehow. They eventually settled in Townsville, Queensland, where they raised ten children.
In Townsville, Eddie became a spokesperson for the Torres Strait Islander community. He was involved with the trade union movement and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League. He was also helped to found the city's Aboriginal and Islander Health Service, and co-founded and directed the Townsville Black Community School.
In 1974, while working as a grounds keeper at James Cook University, Eddie discovered during a discussion with Henry Reynolds that what he regarded as his people's traditional land was actually owned by the Government. This discovery inspired Eddie to challenge land ownership laws in Australia.
At a Land Rights Conference in 1981, 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 to challenge for land rights in the High Court. In May 1982, led by Eddie Mabo, they began their legal claim for ownership of their lands.