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Eddie Koiki Mabo Timeline

Accompanying website for the Eddie Koiki Mabo Timeline inside the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, James Cook University

A Brief Timeline of Eddie Koiki Mabo's Life

Eddie Mabo Timeline Banner image

29 June 1936

Born on Mer (Murray) Island in the Torres Strait.


Left Mer Island and moved to mainland Australia.

1962 - 21 January 1992

Engaged in active community service in the spheres of politics, trade unions, Indigenous Australian rights and services, and public events.

1969 - 1975

Employed as a gardener at JCU and formed friendships with academic staff. Was an active JCU Library user researching non-Indigenous views of his land, people and culture.


Discovered he did not have legal title over his land on Mer Island in a discussion with JCU historians Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds.

August 1981

Spoke at a conference about land rights in the Torres Strait at JCU. Decision made to take the Murray Islanders' case to court.

20 May 1982

Land rights case launched. Eddie Mabo is the first plaintiff in a group action.

8 December 1988

The High Court ruled in Mabo v Qld (No.1) that the Queensland Coast Islands Declaratory Act 1985 (Qld) was incompatible with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

21 January 1992

Eddie Koiki Mabo passed away.

3 June 1992

The High Court overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius 'land belonging to nothing, no one' delivering a verdict in favour of the Murray Islanders in Mabo v Qld (No. 2).

22 November 1992

Posthumously awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal.

26 January 1993

Recognised by The Australian newspaper as the 1992 Australian of the Year.

21 May 2008

JCU Library, Townsville, is officially named the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library.


Mabo, the film directed by Rachel Perkins, is released in the 20th anniversary year of the 1992 Mabo decision. 


JCU celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision, and the annual Eddie Koiki Mabo Lecture Series lecture is delivered by Professor Megan Davis.

2020 - 2021

In 2020, celebrating its 50th anniversary as a university and 60 years of higher education in the north, the University posthumously recognised Eddie Koiki Mabo as an Honorary Doctor of the University. That award was to be conferred on the 50th anniversary of the University’s establishment. However, as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, that ceremony was delayed 12 months and the award officially conferred on 19 April 2021, the final day of the University’s 50th anniversary year.

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

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