Eddie (Sambo) Mabo

Eddie Koiki (Sambo) Mabo (1936 - 1992)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Eddie Koiki Mabo formerly Sambo
Born in Island of Mermap
Brother of
Husband of — married about in southern Islandermap
[children unknown]
Died in Island of Mermap
Profile last modified | Created 18 Aug 2015 | Last significant change: 11 Dec 2018
01:30: Christopher Laughton edited the Biography for Eddie Koiki (Sambo) Mabo (1936-1992). [Thank Christopher for this]
This page has been accessed 1,192 times.

Categories: Indigenous Australians | Island of Mer, Queensland | Torres Strait Islanders.



Eddie Mabo was a Torres Strait Islander who became famous in Australian history for his role in a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia that overturned the legal statute of terra nullius which characterized Australian law with regards to land and title, based on the falsehood that Australia had no human inhabitants before the 1788 invasion by the British. In 1992 the historic Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia recognised traditional land rights for Australian Indigenous People.

Eddie's birth was registered in Queensland in the June quarter of 1936 and his death in Queensland in the January quarter of 1992. He was however, born, died and finally buried on Murray Island in the Torres Strait, also known as the Island of Mer, which lies between Queensland and Papua New Guinea, after his grave and tombstone in Townsville Cemetery had been desecrated and vandalised in 1995.

His name at birth was Eddie Koiki Sambo but he changed the surname to Mabo after his mother, Annie Mabo, died giving birth to him and he was adopted according to customary law by his uncle, Annie's brother, Benny Mabo. His father was Robert Zezou Sambo. Robert and Annie were both of the Piadaram Clan[1], one of eight that embraced the Meriam Culture, spread around the islands of Mer, Dauar and Waier[2].

After his marriage to Ernestine Bonita Nehow in 1959 they settled in Townsville, where he became a gardener from 1967 to 1971 at James Cook University and joined in University life. Ernestine is also a strong, active advocate for the rights of the first people of Australia and was born about 1942 in Halifax, near Ingham, Queensland, although her family had been 'blackbirded' (hijacked) from the islands around Vanuatu. She was named as an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to the indigenous community and to human rights as an advocate for the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander peoples". Eddie and Bonita had 7 children.

In 1968, Eddie and Ernestine Boneta were living at 4/16 Sturt Street, Townsville. By 1972, they had moved together to 23 Hibiscus Street, Townsville, and were there on the Electoral Rolls in 1977 and 1980, with Edward Benjamin and Mari Jesse Mabo in 1980.

it was in 1982, with 4 other Torres Straits Islanders, that Eddie began his path to the High Court of Australia, in Canberra, based on being long time inhabitants in settled communities that was to bring acceptance to entitlement to land for so many after the favourable decision on 3 June1992 (see Korff, Jens, 2018).

Sadly, Eddie died in January of that year.

Six months after the High Court's Mabo decision on Native Title, Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered a speech in Redfern Park on 10 December 1992, launching Australia’s program for the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People[3]. In it Keating admitted that “we committed the murders”, “we took the lands”, “we brought the diseases, the alchohol”, and “we took the children from their mothers”. The Media did not give much attention to the speech at the time, but it is now regarded by many as one of the greatest Australian speeches.


  1. http://www.takver.com/history/ph_maboday.htm
  2. http://www.mabonativetitle.com/mer_12.shtml
  3. https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/paul-keatings-redfern-speech#ixzz5ZKl2oM3s

-- This person was created through the import of indygrandma.ged on 02 January 2011. The following data was included in the gedcom. You may wish to edit it for readability.

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User ID: A5301AD68FDC4F0188A50E1F74C43AA3EF96

Data Changed

Data Changed:
Date: 8 AUG 2009

Prior to import, this record was last changed 8 AUG 2009.

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Images: 2
Eddie Mabo Image 1
Eddie Mabo Image 1

Eddie Mabo Image 2
Eddie Mabo Image 2


On 1 Nov 2017 at 02:14 GMT Christopher Laughton wrote:

Can anyone help to reset the main id photo?

Thanks Chris Laughton-95

On 31 Oct 2017 at 10:41 GMT Anne (Turner) Tichborne wrote:

There's a problem with the main id photo: it's showing a broken link. I tried re-setting it but it didn't work.

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