Indigenous leader farewelled
ERNESTINE “Bonita” Mabo was described as the “mother of native title” at her state funeral in Townsville yesterday.
Dr Mabo, who died last month aged 75, championed the pursuit of indigenous land rights alongside her husband Eddie “Koiko” Mabo. Her funeral was attended by about 1000 people at Townsville Stadium.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a tribute that Dr Mabo changed the course of history.
“She made us see what we didn’t want to see,” she said.
INDIGENOUS activist Ernestine “Bonita” Mabo AO has been remembered as the “mother of native title” and “matriarch of reconciliation” at her moving state funeral in Townsville.
Dr Mabo championed the pursuit of indigenous land rights alongside her husband Eddie “Koiki” Mabo.
She passed away late last month at the age of 75.
Dr Mabo was farewelled by around 1000 people at a funeral service at the Townsville Stadium yesterday, led by Pastor Tony Hallo.
“Most of us have had our lives impacted by Bonita… in church on Sundays… She was quiet, dignified, gracious… loving God and people,” Mr Hallo said. The Mabo case was legal- ly significant because it ruled Australian lands had not been “terra nullius” or “land belonging to no one” when European settlement occurred.
The case paved the way for the Native Title Act of 1993.
In recent years, Dr Mabo had been fighting for South Sea Islanders to be recognised in Australia as their own distinct ethnic group.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk delivered a moving tribute to the “unlikely giant”.
“Bonita Mabo was not im- posing, not physically. And yet this slight woman from Ingham would change the course of history,” she said.
“Bonita, one of 10 children, was instilled with not just a deep sense of what’s right but the courage to demand it from others.
“It was a family trait. So was pride in themselves and in their islander heritage.
“She made us see what we didn’t want to see. She made the invisible, visible.
“Bonita’s story is powerful. It’ll be told and retold as a beacon to generations to follow her lead.”
Dr Mabo’s sister Aunty Roslind White delivered the eulogy while her grandson Kaleb Cohen fought back tears as he delivered his “letter to Nornie”.
“You are the reason I can walk with my chest out and head up high. The reason I feel proud to be a black man in this country,” he told his grandmother.
“Every night I will be singing, playing the didgeridoo, teaching my great grandkids our culture. I am Bonita and Eddie Mabo’s grandson ... forever in my heart.”
Indigenous education was another of Dr Mabo’s lifelong passions.
She set up Australia’s first Aboriginal community school – the Black Community School – in Townsville in the early 1970s.
Dr Mabo received an Order of Australia in 2013 for her distinguished service to the indigenous community.
She also received an honor-
SHE MADE US SEE WHAT WE DIDN’T WANT TO SEE. SHE MADE THE INVISIBLE, VISIBLE. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK
ary doctor of letters from James Cook University – just days before her death.
A smoking ceremony was conducted after the service.
Attendees were asked to donate to Diabetes Queensland in lieu of flowers.
TRIBUTE: Elder Alfred Smallwood conducts a smoking ceremony at yesterday’s state funeral for Bonita Mabo. BELOW RIGHT: Ms Mabo’s daughters Celuia and Gail.