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19 April, 2021

Eddie Koiki Mabo receives honorary doctorate from JCU

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, James Cook University has honoured the late Eddie Koiki Mabo with an Honorary Doctorate of the University.

Dr Mabo has received the posthumous honour in recognition of his outstanding service and distinguished public campaign to improve the rights and wellbeing of his people, and his legacy through the existence of Native Title and land rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Dr Mabo was a most significant and nation-changing man,” JCU Chancellor Bill Tweddell said. “He had a long association with James Cook University, its staff and its students from the mid-1960s until his death in 1992. I was privileged to know Dr Mabo myself during my time studying and working at JCU from 1968 to 1975. In 2008 the library on our Bebegu Yumba campus in Townsville was named in his honour.

“I’m delighted to formally recognise his important role in reshaping the legal landscape of Australia as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations with an Honorary Doctorate of the University.”

A further 23 people have also been recognised with Honorary Doctorates, including Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll APM, architect James Birrell, journalist Sean Dorney AM, and Thai cave rescuer Dr Richard Harris SC OAM.

Mr Tweddell said he takes pride in honouring them and celebrating their achievements.

“Honorary degrees are prestigious awards conferred on individuals for distinguished contributions to the community,” he said. “Those who have been honoured have made exceptional contributions in areas such as advancing human well-being, and in advancing and developing the University and its communities.

“They have held roles in some of the world's leading international organisations, built meaningful lives, had accomplished careers, and sought new discoveries that have made a significant local, regional, national and international impact.”

Gail Mabo accepted the doctorate on behalf of her late father at an event in Townsville on Monday night, which concluded a year of celebrations of the University’s 50th year and 60 years of higher education in the north.

The event also included the launch of the book “A University for the North”, which tells 50 stories on the themes of People, Place, Knowledge, and Legacy, and is a celebration of the people who have made the University what it is today.

 Full list of Honorary Doctorate recipients:

Mr Graham Jackson Doctor of the University
Ms Valerie Alberts Honorary Doctor of Letters
Mr Eddie Koiki Mabo (deceased) Honorary Doctor of the University
Mr William (Bill) Mitchell OAM Honorary Doctor of Laws
Emeritus Professor David Yellowlees Honorary Doctor of Science
Mr Bernard Singleton Honorary Doctor of Letters
Mr Darryl Murgha Honorary Doctor of Letters
Miss Edna Shaw (deceased) Honorary Doctor of Letters
Mr Sean Dorney AM Honorary Doctor of Letters
Commissioner Katarina Carroll APM Honorary Doctor of Letters
Mr Laurie Bragge Honorary Doctor of Letters
Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake AO Honorary Doctor of the University
Professor Tony Bacic Honorary Doctor of Science
Professor Ian Young AO Honorary Doctor of Engineering Honoris Causa
Dr Peter Isdale AM Honorary Doctor of Science
Mr Victor Steffensen Honorary Doctor of Science
Dr Denis Lennox Honorary Doctor of Medicine
Associate Professor Judith Trevan-Hawke Honorary Doctor of Science
Professor Dennis Pashen Honorary Doctor of Medicine
Dr Richard Harris SC OAM Honorary Doctor of Medicine
Mr James Birrell (deceased) Honorary Doctor of Letters
Ms Gillian Bird PSM Honorary Doctor of the University
Mrs Margaret Roderick (deceased) Honorary Doctor of the University
Dr Len Rutledge Honorary Doctor of Letters

There were five Far North Queenslanders honoured by James Cook University, including:


Laurie Bragg: made significant contribution to the history of Australian exploration of PNG through the patrols that he led, one of which was accompanied by Sir David Attenborough.


Victor Steffensen: a descendant of the Tagalaka people, he was taught cultural burning and played an integral role in recording and transcribing sessions with the Elders, as part of the Kuku Thaypan Traditional Knowledge Recording Project.


Darryl Murgha: a Gunggandji elder, involved in the establishment and management of several traditional owner enterprises dedicated to cultural and natural heritage management.


Bernard Singleton: a well-known and respected elder across the northern Queensland and Cape York communities. He has worked and provided outstanding service across government, public, community and industry sectors.

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