Tributes flowed this week as Australia mourned the death of the mother of native title, Bonita Mabo.
Dr Mabo, the wife of Eddie Mabo, worked tirelessly alongside her husband for land rights.
She passed away just days after being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from James Cook University in Queensland recognising her contribution to social justice and human rights.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar said Dr Mabo was a woman of great strength.
“She was gentle, stoic and loving,” she said. “I will always remember her as the mother of native title.
“Her legacy lives on in our continuing fight for land and sea rights.”
Other prominent Australians also took to social media to pay tribute to Dr Mabo.
Federal Opposition Labor MP Linda Burney said Dr Mabo was an, “activist for social justice and human rights in her own right”.
“One of the great First Nations women of our time,” Ms Burney said.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Dr Mabo would be missed.
Dr Mabo supported her husband Eddie through his historic challenge to the legal doctrine of terra nullius.
In 1992 the High Court overturned the doctrine and recognised native title for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A South Sea Islander, Dr Mabo spoke frequently about the need for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander peoples to work together as one.
Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine said Dr Mabo made a powerful contribution to reconciliation in Australia – in supporting her husband’s work and through her own efforts as an educator and advocate.
“Aunty Bonita’s work shed light on the horrendous treatment of South Sea Islander Australians, which is an aspect of Australia’s history that has long been hidden and ignored,” she said.
“She reminded us that Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander Australians share some common experiences – and that the reconciliation movement is strongest when we come together to campaign for the equality we all deserve.”
Reconciliation Australia board member Kenny Bedford said Dr Mabo – his aka (grandmother) – was gentle and caring and always put others before herself.
“She was proud of her South Sea heritage and was a quiet achiever who naturally played a significant role in what eventually became the Mabo decision,” he said.
“She is adored by all who know her.
“Because of her, we can.”
By Wendy Caccetta