This is an NFSA Digital Learning resource. See all Digital Learning websites.
Mabo home
...we were being exploited...
...we were being exploited..., 1953-57

Eddie Koiki Mabo worked on the pearl luggers in the 1950s. Even at that late stage, twenty years after the pearling strike, he felt Islanders were being exploited and their lives controlled:

'You'd start at six in the morning, you're wet from six until six at night, very long hours, but the life itself was good. I was a deck hand and a diver, swim diving they call it like a skin diver, but no air just goggles, you just have to hold your breath.

When I worked on the "Adiana", the shell price was at its peak, it was something like -1000 per ton, but we were only being paid -500 per ton by the Department of Native Affairs. Why should Murray Islanders work for half price? I realised we were being exploited, so it was my intention not to see the full year (a season) through, but rather sort of get off the boat somewhere along the line and find something else. I ended up jumping ship in Cairns. Cane cutting was a way out to the big country down south.'

Keywords: Department of Native Affairs, Exile, 1952, pearling industry, Queensland, 1953-57

Loos, Noel and Mabo, Edward Koiki 1996, 'Edward Mabo: His Life and Struggle for Land Rights', University of Queensland Press. Still:© Mabo Family Collection.
Source: Mabo, Edward Koiki