Naming the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library
While Eddie Koiki Mabo’s association with James Cook University was well known at the university, it was not marked or celebrated beyond the inclusion of a memorial cenotaph located on the campus grounds in Townsville (now known as the Bebegu Yumba Campus). The story of Koiki’s time at the university and the role the library and history department played in the development of his case was also less well known outside of the university. When Sandra Harding, as the incoming Vice Chancellor, learned of the story when she saw the cenotaph located on the campus, she wanted to more formally acknowledge Mabo’s achievements and his connections with JCU. As he was known for spending time at the library, it was decided to name the library building (which did not previously have a name) the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library.
May 21, 2008
During his time working at James Cook University, Eddie Koiki Mabo frequently visited the JCU Library. It was at the library that he began undertaking research for his case, and the grounds surrounding the library still contain many of the trees and plants planted by Mabo. In 2008, the university chose to honour Mabo’s legacy and recognise and celebrate the connection between Mabo and the library by naming the building in honour of him.
On May 21, 2008, the library building on the Townsville campus was officially named the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library. The naming ceremony was attended by several dignitaries and honoured guests, including Bonita and Gail Mabo and other members of the Mabo family, the Honourable Jenny Macklin MP, and James Birrell, the architect and designer of the University campus plan (including the original Library building).
As part of the preparation for the naming of the library, the memorial cenotaph for Eddie Koiki Mabo was situated outside the southern entrance of the library building. The stone-mounted plaque features a bas-relief of Koiki’s portrait as featured on his tombstone, and also bears the same inscription. The inscription on the front reads:
Mabo Memorial Inscription
In memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo
Born Murray Island 29-6-1936
Aged 56 years
Loving husband of Bonita
Devoted father, father-in-law grandfather, brother brother-in-law, uncle and friend
He was a known and respected member in local,
state and national organisations.
His involvement in black affairs dates back to
the early 1960’s. The most important one was the
Murray Island Land Claim known as the “Mabo Case”
He put so much of his strength, his inspiration,
his fighting spirit and his wisdom into the case,
which has profound significance, not only for
the Murray Islanders, but also for the Torres
Strait Aboriginal people and Indigenous people
“A Meriam man of Piadaram Clan”
The naming ceremony was opened by Bindal Traditional Owner Gracelyn Smallwood, who has spoken of Eddie Mabo encouraging her to spend more time in the library when she was a student at JCU.
As part of the celebrations, The Land I Own, a painting by Gail Mabo, was purchased by JCU to be permanently associated with the library.