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Bonita Mabo recognised in the Order of Australia
Bonita Mabo was recently named as an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to the Indigenous community and to human rights as an advocate for the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander peoples".
The award was presented to Bonita at a ceremony at Government House in Canberra by the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, for her lifetime of activism and service to the community.
“It’s so overwhelming, I can’t describe how I am feeling today,” Bonita said after receiving her award.
“I wanted to cry but I had to hold that back. It’s hard to believe that it’s happened to me. I think I am still in shock.”
Like her late husband Eddie Mabo, Bonita has long been a land rights campaigner and activist for her people.
On 3 June last year, Australians commemorated Mabo Day, marking the 20th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision.
Eddie Mabo, from Mer Island in the Torres Strait, spent a decade seeking official recognition of his people’s ownership of Mer. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia agreed, rejecting the doctrine that Australia was terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) at the time of European settlement.
Eddie passed in 1992 before the landmark decision was handed down and Bonita said she knows that he would be proud of the work she continues to do for Indigenous and South Sea Islander Australians.
“I think he would be proud of me. He came to me the morning we were leaving to come to Canberra and he had a big smile on his face and I thought to myself, he must be proud of what I am doing, happy with what I am doing.”
Bonita is proud of what she has achieved as an advocate for South Sea Islander people and that is what occupies most of her time these days.
“That’s my main aim now, for Australian South Sea Islanders to be recognised as a distinct ethnic group,” Bonita said.