...The story of Eddie's exile...
In 1973 Eddie and his family travelled to Thursday Island, where they could catch a boat to Mer. From Thursday Island, Mabo sent a series of requests by telegram, to the Chairman of the Murray Island Council. But the Chairman continued to prohibit him, or his family, from entering Murray Island. After several weeks on Thursday Island the Mabo family trooped back to Townsville.
Mabo was considered a dangerous troublemaker, and his 'new' ideas from 'down south' were a threat to the island's conservative leaders. The Council always had the right to refuse entry to the island, but after the waves of migration to the mainland in the 1950s and 1960s, there were strong suggestions from the Council that those who had left had forfeited their rights to residency and their ancestral lands. They were dubbed 'non-islanders'.
Mabo maintained that the Queensland Government, through the State Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs (DAIA), had colluded with, and influenced the island leadership, to prohibit his visits. He believed that his political activities in Townsville had brought him under surveillance and scrutiny by the Queensland Police Special Branch and that DAIA wished to quell his influence over island affairs.
Later in 1973 and 1974, Mabo tried once again to return to Murray Island, this time as a researcher for the History Department of James Cook University. The department had secured funds for Eddie to travel through the Torres Straits to collect and record oral history accounts of island life, legends and culture. Once again he was refused permission from going no further than Thursday Island.
Keywords: Department of Aboriginal & Islander Affairs (DAIA), exile, Exile Continues, 1973, Murray Island, Murray Island Council, 1973-1974
Author: Graham, Trevor