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A Star is Named: Eddie Mabo honoured in star dedication

MAAS Director, Rose Hiscock with Eddie Mabo's granddaughter, Gail Mabo, at the Sydney Observatory. Photograph by Jayne Ion.
MAAS Director, Rose Hiscock with Eddie Mabo’s daughter, Gail Mabo, at the Sydney Observatory. Photograph by Jayne Ion.

For NAIDOC Week 2015, Luke Briscoe of National Indigenous TV (NITV) writes about the star naming ceremony in honour of Eddie Mabo which took place at Sydney Observatory on 3 June 2015 (Eddie Mabo Day).

Eddie Koiki Mabo’s legacy was always a stellar one, but now it is literally stellar, with a star to be named after the man who changed Native Title in Australia.

Sydney Observatory has honoured the Mabo legacy in a star naming ceremony. The ceremony comes on the 23rd anniversary of the landmark Mabo decision, in which the High Court of Australia overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius.

“The stars have great significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Rose Hiscock, Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, told NITV.

“It is fitting that we honour Uncle Eddie through the dedication of a star in our most iconic constellation, the Southern Cross.”

Coordinates for the star named after Eddie Mabo
Coordinates for the star named after Eddie Mabo.

Kaurareg Tribal Elder Milton Savage says “we say Thonar-Tidai-Zinz-Jzapuc which roughly means ‘it is written in the stars and this just destiny’.”

“What Eddie Mabo did was open the doors and has given everyone a huge opportunity. In 2001 we got our Native Title on our traditional Kaurareg land.”

For the people of Eddie Mabo’s Murray (Mer) Island, this dedication holds deep emotional and cultural significance. The Mabo star resides within the Sydney Southern Star Catalogue and Murray Islander Elder Alo Tapim told NITV that the Southern Cross constellation is rich in culture and meaning.

“Murray Island claims the south east winds but that means we have to stay in that district where the wind is blowing all them. I have to tell my story and it’s my totem story. I have to tell the stories of the southern wind.”

Telescope viewing at Sydney Observatory. Photograph by Jayne Ion.
Telescope viewing at Sydney Observatory. Photograph by Jayne Ion.

The dedication is part of a Dreamtime Astronomy program developed in partnership with the Nura Gili Indigenous Unit of the University of New South Wales. The program promotes research into Indigenous astronomy, which goes back some 40,000 years.

Matt Poll, Indigenous Curator at the University of Sydney’s Macleay Museum, has been studying Indigenous astronomy for the last 15 years.

“Star constellations are prominent landmarks in the Aboriginal skies of pre-contact Australia,” he says. 

“They exist in so many of the amazing stories that were passed through the oral histories of thousands of generations of people up until the present day.

“This should signal the start of a lot more recognition of the value of the contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made to science, history and culture.”

Post by Luke Briscoe, NITV

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