Aboriginal Civil Rights

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Aboriginal Civil Rights

Find out who Eddie Mabo, Vincent Lingiari and Albert Namatjra was.

What was their contribution to civil rights, equality and indigenous welfare in Australia?

Eddie Mabo
Eddie Mabo was born Eddie Koiki Sambo but changed his name later on in life, he was born on Mer Island (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait in 1936. His mother died during infancy which left him to be raised by his uncle; Benny Mabo. After a teenage prank that ended badly, Eddie was exiled from his home which ended up in him living in Townsville and working on the railways. Through his work he met a number of other people like himself and soon became a spokesperson for the railway workers and frequently voiced their opinions to trade union officials. Eddie opened the first black school in the area which was how he started making a difference to the people in his community. He married Bonita Neehow when he was 23 in 1959; they went on to raise ten children. By the time he was 31 years old Eddie got work as a gardener at James Cook University. He began to join in with the university life; he would sit in seminars, go to the library and read books about what white people said about his own people. In 1981 a Land Rights’ conference was held at the university, in which Eddie made a speech about land ownership and land inheritance on his home island. There was a lawyer at the conference who suggested that there should be a test case to claim land rights. The people of Murray Island decided that they would be the ones to challenge the claim of terra nullius in the High Court, Eddie was chosen as leader for this. It took ten years and after investigation the court found out that Eddie was not actually the son of Benny Mabo and so had no right to inherit Mabo land. He was devastated by this but did not give up; he perused the matter and appealed it to the High Court of Australia. Eddie died of cancer in January 1992 aged 52, five months after his death on the 3rd of June...
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