Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1936-92) was born on the island of Mer (also known as Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. As a young man Eddie moved to mainland Queensland, working in and around Townsville. Eddie Mabo helped found Townsville’s Aboriginal and Islander Health Service and the Townsville Black Community School.
In 1981, at a land rights conference in Townsville, Eddie and other Murray Islanders decided to begin legal proceedings to have the traditional ownership of their land recognised by the Courts. Their claim was lodged with the High Court on 20 May 1982. On 3 June 1992, six months after Eddie Mabo’s death, the High Court handed down its decision in favour of Mabo and his fellow plaintiffs. This was the first recognition of native title in Australia.
The inaugural Mabo Lecture was delivered by Noel Pearson at the 2001 National Native Title Conference which was held in Townsville. Since the 2003 National Native Title Conference, the Mabo Lecture has become an annual event.
Past presenters of the Mabo Lecture are Noel Pearson (2001 and 2003), John Borrows (2004), Aden Ridgeway (2005), Galarrwuy Yunupingu (2006), Mick Dodson (2007), Joe Williams CJ (2008), Les Malezer (2009), Marcia Langton (2010), Kerry Arabena (2011), Neil Sterrit (2012), Professor Robert A Williams, JR (2013), Dr Wen-Chi Kung (2014), Mick Gooda (2015) and Melissa George (2016).