The Truth Behind the Mabo Myth

The Truth behind the Mabo Myth

Sir: The fiction of Eddie Koiki Mabo persists. In “Truth-telling in Oceania” (April 2023), Keith Windschuttle describes Eddie Mabo as “once a sedentary farmer on the Torres Strait island of Mer”. He was not. He did not reside on the island; in fact, he was banned from coming onto the island by decision of the Murray Island Council. The stated reason was that he was caught drinking alcohol but the real reason was that he was a trouble-maker. Every time he came to the island he caused upset with his braggadocio, so the Council banned him.

He upset the old men when he featured in an article in the Australian which had a heading “The Man Who Would Be King” or something similar. In it, he claimed to be the rightful king of the Murray Islands, of which there are three—Mer, Daua and Waier. He said he would consider inviting Queen Elizabeth for his coronation. All that was nonsense and might just have been Eddie’s whimsical sense of humour. What really upset the old men was that he claimed to be a high priest of the indigenous cult, the name of which I will not use out of respect. The name of the cult was so sacred that it was not uttered among strangers, and here was Mabo splashing the name in a newspaper. To make it worse, he was not a high priest of the cult; he was not even an initiate. Such was the feeling stirred up by this newspaper article that one very well-connected resident was heard to say that, if Mabo arrived on the plane that day, she would like to shoot him.

His real name was Eddie Sambo. His mother was a Mabo and his father was Robert Sambo. Eddie and his brother Nicey jointly claimed and received the back-pay which Whitlam paid to the so-called Torres Strait Regiment which was due to the late Robert Sambo.

He was a groundsman at James Cook University in Townsville when he was identified as a suitable name to be put to a case which had been crafted by lawyers in Melbourne. “We’ve got the case. Now we need a plaintiff,” one was heard to say.

In the beginning of Mabo (2), the matter was referred to the Queensland Supreme Court for trial on the questions of fact. Moynihan J was given the job. The upshot of the exploration of the facts was that Mabo was found to have no rights to land on the island. The two parcels of land to which he laid claim were found to be recognised as the property of others. On the basis of this, consideration was given by the legal team for the State of Queensland to have Mabo removed as a party to the action.

It was decided not to go ahead with this, as that would not be nice. Pity.

Frank Pulsford


Time for a Voice of Gratitude

SIR: Does the ABC’s Stan Grant also denounce the Royal Flying Doctor Service—founded by that terrible whitefella Christian, the Rev. John Flynn of the Inland, who was so appalled at the terrible lingering death of Aborigine Jimmy Darcy in the outback—as just another awful example of Australia’s British colonial past?
And what does Stan Grant say of Christian missionaries raising and educating “Australia’s Leonardo da Vinci”, full-blood Aboriginal engineering/scientific genius David Unaipon, adorning Australia’s $50 (whereas Flynn’s only on our $20) note? And the Christian missionaries, and other Aborigine-supporting whitefellas, who ended Aboriginal cannibalism—documented in Manning Clark’s History of Australia, third volume, “The Beginning of an Australian Civilisation”?

Perhaps the ungrateful Stan Grant would like to at least give “voice” to a vote of thanks to Australian whitefellas for the preceding?

Howard Hutchins


Mandatory Thinking in the Northern Territory

SIR: Thank you for your article, “An Ambassador for Reparations” (May 2023).

I recently joined the Northern Territory government in the health sector and was required to undertake many hours of “mandatory training”. I had the opportunity to speak to an Aboriginal woman from the Central Desert area and a man from East Arnhem Land who had also completed the training. We were all shocked by what turned out to be a faceless system of authority and control presented as “education”. One of the multiple-choice questions required participants to define the meaning of Australia Day (which it referred to as “Survival Day”). The options were:

1/ This day marks the protest against discrimination and segregation in public spaces

2/ This day marks the beginning of invasion and dispossession against Aboriginal people

3/ This day marks the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in the front of the Parliament House

4/ This day marks the protest march of 200 stockmen, house servants, and their families

We were effectively forced to choose option B in order to pass the exam. We presumed that to refuse to complete the training on the grounds that none of us wished to have someone else’s slogans forced between our teeth, would mean potential job loss, and certainly being singled out as a troublemaker.

A world in which unseen forces can suppress speech, deny basic liberties, undermine dissent and potentially obscure the truth is alive and well in the Northern Territory. The government asking someone to declare their allegiance to a cause is not innocent and such invitations are not at all voluntary. This is just one small example of progression towards a totalitarian order that wishes to enforce a conformity so pervasive that slogans replace ideas and the concept of dissent is incomprehensible.

One of the current Tourism NT marketing slogans is “Seek Different”. Perhaps it should be “Seek Conformity”. The Northern Territory likes visitors to think it is an easy-going escape from big city politics. It is in fact a violent place, with violence that is not just on the streets, but enshrined in legislature and basic government policy. 

Northern Territory health worker (name withheld)


A New Barry Award

SIR: Though not related, I admired Barry Humphries from afar for as long as I can remember. With all the toing and froing on Twitter about his passing it behoves us to remember that he founded the long-running Melbourne International Comedy Festival. As a millennial fan I should have been hip to this factoid, but only found out about his brainchild after his passing.

It seems in the light of the controversy around the MICF Barry Award snub that instead of calling for the reinstatement of the Barry Award, a whole new award show should be created to celebrate and cultivate non-woke content creators. Call it “The Barry Award Show”. In reflecting on Barry’s passing, I think nothing would bring him more pleasure then creating a new award show committed to beating back the wokeism that he himself called a “mortal foe”.

Furthermore, if conservative commentators and the conservative movement generally were serious about beating wokeism and its mother leftism, they should cultivate in government an approach to the arts that supports conservative rather than leftist voices. This point is probably a drum that’s been beaten by far more expert writers and critics than me, but it has to be said.

Out there somewhere in the suburbs of Australia, I believe another Barry lies in wait for a real opportunity to break out and tread the stage that Edna, Les and Sandy did with such wit.

Training and equipping the cultural boxing gloves to punch up and down was a skill that Barry honed for over fifty years. Hopefully conservatism gets in the game and really starts trying to use comedy and culture in general to win the culture wars.

Tim Humphries


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