Renee Cluff

Tropic Now Editor

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Family delighted by Eddie Mabo’s posthumous accolade


The late Eddie Koiki Mabo has been honoured with an honorary doctorate of James Cook University in what one of his daughters has described as a ‘fitting’ tribute.

Dr Mabo officially received the doctorate last night, in recognition of his outstanding service and distinguished public campaign to improve the rights and wellbeing of his people, and his legacy through the existence of Native Title and land rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.



Gail Mabo, his daughter, accepted the award on his behalf.

“When they first told me I actually cried,” she told Tropic Now.

“For my father to receive that honorary doctorate last night was so fitting because it has been a long time coming.

“But it came at the best time because it’s 50 years since JCU opened their doors and last night was the last night of their celebration.”

The ceremony came just over two years after the death of Gail’s mother, Bonita, who was honoured with a doctorate in late 2018.

“I know when mum got her doctorate mum joked to me and said, ‘well I beat your dad’,” Gail Mabo said.

“When it did happen and he finally got it I said to myself well you both stand the same.

“We now have two doctors of the house.”

JCU Chancellor Bill Tweddell said 24 Australians were honoured with doctorates as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

“Dr Mabo was a most significant and nation-changing man,” he said.

“He had a long association with James Cook University, its staff and its students from the mid-1960s until his death in 1992.”

The other 23 recipients were:

Mr Graham Jackson                                       

Ms Valerie Alberts                                                    

Mr William (Bill) Mitchell OAM                   

Emeritus Professor David Yellowlees         

Mr Bernard Singleton                                

Mr Darryl Murgha                                        

Miss Edna Shaw (deceased)                         

Mr Sean Dorney AM                                      

Commissioner Katarina Carroll APM          

Mr Laurie Bragge                                          

Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake AO     

Professor Tony Bacic                                    

Professor Ian Young AO                                

Dr Peter Isdale AM                                        

Mr Victor Steffensen                                  

Dr Denis Lennox                                            

Associate Professor Judith Trevan-Hawke 

Professor Dennis Pashen                              

Dr Richard Harris SC OAM                          

Mr James Birrell (deceased)                        

Ms Gillian Bird PSM                                     

Mrs Margaret Roderick (deceased)            

Dr Len Rutledge