...Eddie Mabo's character...
'A good example of Eddie Mabo's character is the way he responded to the decisions of the trial judge.
The trial judge decided that Eddie Mabo's claims to land failed. They failed because the judge decided he was not adopted by reason of custom and tradition. Therefore the claims to land, through his adopted father, failed.
I remember well, we had a conference in Melbourne, trying to decide "what do we do next". And there were three options for Eddie: Firstly he could appeal that adverse finding of fact. Secondly he could wear it on the chin and go forward as a representative of a wider cause, of his community, and go straight into the High Court on the findings of fact that we had established for the other plaintiffs, not him, and argue the ultimate questions of law. And thirdly he could sack all his lawyers and go home and forget it all as too hard and ridiculous.
We advised him on a certain course and he took that advice on the chin and proceeded. That is to say "forget these adverse findings of fact in respect of you. There's a bigger and more important issue. We do have findings to go into the High Court. Proceed into the High Court and seek a finding in respect of the other plaintiffs". He did that.
That showed, I think, considerable, if you like, statesmanship, ability to see the broader picture, to subvert an ego trip, if that's what you want to say he was on about, and to do something that's often very difficult for highly motivated people, and that's to take hard legal advice and respond sensibly and proceed down a course which had plenty of hazards but which, as it transpired, was the correct course.'
Keywords: adoption, High Court of Australia, inheritance, Keon-Cohen, Bryan, Mabo, Edward Koiki, Moynihan's findings, Passi, Sam
Interviewed by Trevor Graham, 1996Author: Kenna, Jonathan
© Film Australia
Source: Keon-Cohen, Bryan