Restoring Las Village in recognition of Mabo Day

Article by Bertrand Tungandame for NITV Radio

Kaleb Mabo, a grandson of Edward Koiki Mabo is planning to restore the patriarch’s traditional home and final resting place; Las Village on Mer (Murray) Island. The restoration is set to be completed on June 3 and mark 30 years since the Mabo case overturned the doctrine of Terra Nullius in the high court of Australia, giving birth to Native Title.

Koiki’s Las Village is located on Mer (Murray) Island, the eastern most inhabited island in the Torres Strait and one of the most remote Indigenous communities in Australia.

Kaleb says, the idea to restore Las Village was sparked in 2019, when he re-visited Mer to pay respects to his heritage after 20 years.

He found the land his grandfather fought and died for had been abandoned for several years and the jungle and sea had claimed it.

“When I first arrived it saddened me greatly, as the land my ancestors once occupied had become a mess,” Kaleb says.

Kaleb Mabo, a grandson of Koiki and Bonita Mabo and son of Gail Mabo confirmed that according to Meriam lore his mother, Gail was the caretaker of the land until Kaleb as a first-born son was old enough to be handed the responsibility.

A year after his initial visit Kaleb returned to fill holes, re-level the ground and clear the land of rubbish, debris, coconut trees and pandanus – backbreaking work that was all done by hand with a rake and machete purchased from Bunnings.

Kaleb revealed that the restoration of Las Village is not just about his family’s legacy. Once completed it would allow Koiki’s clansmen (Piadrum) to mark this milestone with traditional ceremonies that have not been conducted in Las for over 20 years.

To make this project a reality Kaleb is seeking funding required for material equipment, airfares and shipping of equipment.

He aims to have the Koiki’s home standing tall as an acknowledgement and long-standing reminder to ‘MABO Day”, celebrated as a public holiday throughout the Torres Straits on the 3rd of June, as a lasting heritage for generations to come.

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