Mabo - Life of an Island Man


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1997, 87 Minutes

Mabo - Life of an Island Man is the story of a small island and an extraordinary man. Eddie Koiki Mabo was born on Murray Island in the Torres Strait, but lived most of his life in exile. Only after his death did the island wholeheartedly welcome him home. By then the island and Eddie, between them, had changed the legal and political landscape of Australia.

On June 3rd 1992, six months after Eddie Mabo's tragic death, the High Court of Australia upheld his claim that Murray Islanders held "native title" to three islands on the eastern fringe of the Torres Strait.

Aboriginal and Islander communities across Australia greeted the Mabo judgement with jubilation. The legal fiction that Australia was an empty land when first occupied by white people had been laid to rest - by the highest court in the land. After more than 200 years of struggle, European law was at last coming to grips with pre-existing indigenous law.

But the world knows little of Eddie Mabo, the man who gave his name - and much of his life - to a legal judgement that continues to reverberate throughout Australia. Filmmaker Trevor Graham counted Eddie as a friend during the last few years of Mabo's life. Land Bilong Islanders, his 1989 documentary, would become the only film record of the Mabo proceedings. 

Now he has made a new film, a feature documentary about the little-known life of Eddie Mabo. It tells the private and public stories of an island man so passionate about family and home that he fought an entire nation and its legal system. Though he died before his greatest victory was won, it has forever ensured his place - on Murray Island and in Australian history.

Mabo-Life of an Island Man is a film about Eddie Koiki Mabo, the public and the private man.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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Writer/Director: Trevor Graham

Producer: Denise Haslem; Trevor Graham (Co-producer)

Featured People: Eddie Koiki Mabo, Bonita Mabo, Eddie Mabo Jnr, Gail Mabo, Mario Mabo, Celuia Mabo, Malita West, Danny West, Bryan Keon-Cohen, Noel Loos, Henry Reynolds, Margaret Reynolds, Donald Whaleboat, Father Dave Passi, Jack Wailu, James Rice, Paul Smith, Eric Willmot, Justice Martin Moynihan, Marwar Dipoma, Kaba Noah, Lois O'Donoghue, Cath Carter, George Carter.

Year: 1997

Running Time: 87 minutes

Classification: G

Curriculum links: Indigenous studies; Australian History; Legal Studies - Contesting laws: Heritage, culture and land; English; Religion and Society; SOSE/HSIE. Of particular relevance for NSW History Stage 5, Topic 6 'Changing Rights and Freedoms' Section A: Aboriginal Peoples - Change over Time.


Small Island, Big Fight

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On Sacred Ground


SKU 199501200
Brand Film Australia

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