Featured News Bonita Mabo honoured by JCU

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Thu, 22 Nov 2018

Bonita Mabo honoured by JCU

JCU academics in robes stand Behind Bonita Mabo, who is holding her honorary doctorate and wearing academic dress
Photo: Mikaela Smith, IERC

Bonita Mabo has received one of James Cook University’s highest awards, an Honorary Doctor of Letters, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the community.

Dr Mabo has been recognised for her advocacy work for Indigenous schooling and her campaigning for the rights of Indigenous Australians and Australian South Sea Islanders.

She was the co-founder of Australia’s first Indigenous community school, the Black Community School in Townsville, where she worked as a teacher’s aide and oversaw the day-to-day operations, including providing continuity and cultural training to all children.

She was considered to be a stabilising influence at the school at a time when it was considered unacceptable to have discrete curricula and teaching policies for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Dr Mabo worked alongside her late husband Edward “Koiki” Mabo during his long and ultimately successful fight for Indigenous land rights in Australia, and spent 10 years on the Central Queensland Land Council.

She has also been a staunch advocate for Australian South Sea Islanders, and is the honorary patron of the Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson, the interim Australian South Sea Islanders national body.

JCU Chancellor Bill Tweddell said Dr Mabo is a deserving recipient of the award.

“Dr Mabo has been recognised for her 45 years of service to the community and her advocacy for Indigenous Australians and Australian South Sea Islanders,” he said. “Her acceptance of this award is an honour to the university.”

The award was presented at a private ceremony over the weekend, attended by Dr Mabo’s family.

“It was wonderful to have so many members of the Mabo family present for the ceremony, and to witness their evident pride in Bonita’s achievement.” Mr Tweddell said.

“We can all take inspiration from Bonita’s courage and determination.”