Statement on behalf of the Mam family.
Torres Strait Elder, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, advocate, supporter, cultural leader and former NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year (2005) Uncle Steve Mam has passed away quietly in Brisbane in the presence of wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Uncle Steve was born at St Paul’s Village on Moa Island, in the near Western group of the Torres Strait, in 1938 to parents William Jerimiah Mam and Geripo May Mam (nee Lee).
He has played a significant role in numerous Indigenous community organisations and representative bodies, and believed a strong foundation for individuals, families and the community was essential, as was understanding the principles he stood for.
He was a co-founding member of the Aboriginal and Islanders’ Community Health Service (AICHS) in Brisbane, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and Black Community Housing Service.
He was elected Regional Councillor of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) from its inception in 1989 until its finish in 2004.
He was a strong and very passionate supporter of autonomy for Indigenous people, self-determination and economic development, and always said it was important to “listen, understand, ask questions and take action”.
The turning point in his life was the 1967 referendum when he became a political activist and made the decision to commit himself to helping Aboriginal and his own beloved Torres Strait Islander People.
He was also committed to fighting for Kupai Omaska, the act of Traditional Adoption, to be recognised legally in Australia.
Uncle Steve was heavily involved in managing Warriors Rugby League team, supporting Brisbane Natives and Kangaroos along with many Community organisations, Inna Torres Strait Islanders Incorporation, Born-Free Club, Kambu Medical Centre, Yalangi Preschool, the Dreamtime Cultural Centre, the National Secretariat of Torres Strait Islanders, the National Indigenous Development Alliance (NIDA) and the Wagga Torres Strait Islanders Dance Company.
In 1979 he became a founding member and State Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) and was a Native Title political supporter during the famous Mabo High Court hearings.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.