Mabo: Life of An Island Man - Homesick

Mabo: Life of An Island Man - Homesick
Mabo Family, Trevor Graham and Yarra Bank Films
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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Eddie's daughter Gail Mabo explains how she could always tell when Eddie was homesick because he would paint pictures of home - Mer. The family used to join him in singing songs from the Murray Islands and Gail sings his favourite one.

It was incredibly important to Eddie that his children learn about Murray Island culture. Eddie gave lectures at James Cook University where he worked as a gardener and, in footage of him talking to a class, he says 'If I die my kids are not going to be able to speak my language if I don't teach them. That led to an idea that we must be able to retain our identity and culture and this can only be taught to our kids through our own education system.'

We see black-and-white footage of Eddie teaching at the Black Community School he established with his wife Bonita in Townsville in 1973. The children look happy as they sit in a circle singing and dancing and doing traditional crafts.

Fellow Murray Islander and plantiff in the Queensland Supreme Court case, Donald Whaleboat, says 'He kept on saying to me, if we are able to have our own school we could have the white curriculum as being taught there by the white teachers. We could have some white teachers come into the school but at the same time we could have the elders come in and teach the cultural side of things plus the language. Plus we could teach them the crafts, to plant gardens.'

This is an excerpt from Mabo: Life of An Island Man, 1997, Film Australia Collection © NFSA. Buy a copy at the NFSA shop.

Notes by Beth Taylor