Some *black Australian* history in an upcoming film based on the life of Eddie Koiki Mabo, known for his role in fighting for Indigenous land rights, and his involvement in a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia that overturned what was then legal – the doctrine of terra nullius (meaning “land belonging to no one,” used in international law to describe territory that has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state).
Mabo was named Eddie Koiki Malboy, but he changed his surname to Mabo when he was adopted by his maternal uncle, Benny Mabo.
I can’t claim to know anything about Eddie Mabo, because I don’t unfortunately – except for the bits and pieces I read online prior to writing up this post. So thankfully coming across this trailer this morning has only served to expand my universe a bit, as I’ll be reading a bit more about the man after this, and will keep my antennae up for this upcoming film, which stars Jimi Bani as the title character, and Deborah Mailman as his wife Bonita.
Here’s a proper synopsis:
Twenty years after the historic Mabo decision, the moving life story of Eddie and Bonita Mabo comes to the screen in a feature directed by Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Day, First Australians) and written by Sue Smith (Bastard Boys, Brides of Christ). As a young man Eddie ‘Koiko’ Mabo (Jimi Bani) is exiled from his Torres Strait Island home by the authorities. He takes a railroad job and soon learns the reality of being a blackfella in a whitefella’s world, including being banned from places frequented by white colleagues. One hot night, he spots a beautiful young woman and his world lights up. Bonita (Deborah Mailman) becomes his wife, the mother of his 10 children and the force that sustains him. The story of their enduring relationship, both tender and fierce, is set against the background of Eddie’s High Court challenge, which overthrew the fiction of terra nullius.
Eddie died in 1992 at just 55 years of age. He had cancer.
And just 5 months after his death, the High Court of Australia announced its historic decision, overturning terra nullius, which stated that “native title” existed and it was up to the Aboriginal or Islander people to determine who owned what land.
That decision is now known as the “Mabo decision” in Australia.
The Australian-produced film is scheduled to air in that country on ABC1 TV, on June 3rd. No word on if it will travel.
The real Eddie Mabo in the photo above.