Rikisha Phineasa is a second-year Bachelor of Arts — Bachelor of Laws student who says that Eddie Koiki Mabo, and the Mabo Decision in 1992, has served as a powerful source of inspiration in her personal life and in her studies.
Rikisha says that Eddie Koiki Mabo is an important personal and cultural inspiration for her. “I’m a Torres Strait Islander and so are both of my parents. My mum is from the Top Western Islands of Dauan and Saibai, and my dad is from the Eastern Islands of Mabuiag Island and Mer (Murray) Island,” she says.
“There are a lot of different dimensions to how Eddie Koiki Mabo is a role model for me. He was a Torres Strait Islander man and that makes him a very personal hero for me, because I’m also a Torres Strait Islander woman. My ancestors come from the same island as Mabo — the island of Mer — and that was the very island he went all the way to the High Court to fight for.”
As a Law student, Rikisha says the Mabo Decision and its legacy has created a path not just for her, but for others, to follow in his footsteps and create change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Seeing how Eddie Koiki Mabo used the law to help Indigenous people has been an example for me. I have always wanted to help Indigenous people in my career. Even from the beginning, I have planned to go into native title, constitutional law, policy making, or anything where I can help to create a direct, positive impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples.
“One of the most significant moments I have experienced in my legal journey so far was witnessing a family friend being inducted as a lawyer in the Cairns District Court. That was very inspirational because it helped me to visualise the end goal of my degree. I keep that image in mind every time I go to a lecture or complete an assignment. It reminds me that all the work I do is for something important and tangible; to be inducted officially as a lawyer and begin helping real people, with real problems.”
Studying on the JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba Campus, Douglas, Rikisha says that Mabo’s legacy is visible everywhere she goes. “When walking into the library, to study or do an assignment, seeing the name of a Torres Strait Islander man means so much to me, my family and my culture. It’s a very big motivation seeing his name at JCU and studying in the building that commemorates him.”
"Because of Eddie Koiki Mabo’s example, I know that there are no barriers, legal, social or otherwise, that can prevent me from fighting for the right cause. My passion is with Indigenous rights, and Eddie Mabo’s case for land rights set a precedent for the generations to follow, mine included."
Rikisha Phineasa, JCU Student