Mabo: Life of an Island Man

Eddie Koiki Mabo surrounded by a tree and plants in a garden.
Mabo: Life of an Island Man
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons

This is a film about Eddie Mabo – the man whose name lives on in a High Court ruling that has forever altered Australian life.

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 3 June 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 judgment 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, was the only film record of the Mabo proceedings. Mabo – Life of an Island Man is 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.

Trevor Graham
Denise Haslem
Trevor Graham
Trevor Graham