Mabo celebrations at CDU 

Murray Island Elder Mr Doug Bon

15 years ago, on 3rd of June, Mabo Day marked the beginning of a new era for Indigenous people and the beginning of a reconciliation process between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, based on common law and not charity.

To mark this important moment in Australia’s history, Charles Darwin University (CDU), last week, celebrated Mabo Day, with a presentation from Murray Island Elder Doug Bon, a relative of Eddie Mabo (Eddie Mabo’s grandfather and Doug Bon’s grandfather were brothers).

The day was organised and hosted by CDU’s Indigenous Academic Support Unit and included the presentation by Mr Bon, performances by the Murray Islander Mer Peibre Cultural Dance Troupe and a traditional Murray Islander Kaikai luncheon.

Mr Bon spoke about his life and that of his family, growing up on Murray Island in the Torres Strait Islands, and of the issues and subsequent journey of the Murray Island Torres Strait Islander people before, during and after the Mabo Native Title Resistance Movement. Mr Bon also spoke about the civil and human rights issues and inequities he has encountered throughout his working career

Cynthia Coyne, event organiser with CDU’s Indigenous Academic Support Unit said the day was a great opportunity for people to gain a first-hand understanding of what Mabo Day is all about.

‘People can learn about Mabo and reconciliation from books, the internet, newspapers and television, but to hear someone’s first hand real-life experiences, it adds a whole new dimension to understanding why we celebrate Mabo Day,’ she said.

‘We had a number of law students come along to hear Mr Bon,’ said Cynthia. ‘One student said to me that this is what they learn in first year law, but that it was so valuable to hear about it first hand – I really think the presentation had an impact.’

After Mr Bon’s presentation performers with the Murray Islander Mer Peibre Cultural Dance Troupe performed a paddle dance, diving for trochus and pearl shell dance and drumming dance.

Attendees where also treated to a traditional Murray Islander Kaikai luncheon, including: sop-sop – made from yam, sweet potato, pumpkin and coconut cream; turtle stew; kup mauri damper – a damper cooked under the ground, sabisai – made from coconut milk, banana and kasava; and semur chicken.

For more information contact Penny Shirras on 0410 611 356.