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2017 Mabo Oration

25 years ago the Mabo Case rewrote Australian law and recognized the existence of native title.

1.5 hours watch

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this page may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

Driven by a desire to honour the courage and significance of Edward Koiki Mabo’s work, in 2005 the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland and QPAC partnered to establish The Mabo Oration – a biennial public lecture from expert voices in the field of native title and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Since then six leaders from divergent fields have delivered orations on subjects ranging from the legal protection of cultural knowledge to meeting the contemporary challenges of social justice.

In 2017, to mark the 25th anniversary of the High Court decision, the oration was presented as a panel facilitated by journalist and author Stan Grant.


Professor Tom Calma AO
Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA
Dr Bryan Koen-Cohen AM QC
Jayde Geia
Vonda Malone

The event took place at QPAC’s Playhouse and was attended by a capacity audience.

Stan Grant
Stan Grant is from Griffith in south-west New South Wales. Stan’s mother is from the Kamilaroi people and his father is of the Wiradjuri.

After attending University, Stan won a cadetship with the Macquarie Radio Network, launching a 30-year career in journalism. During that time, he travelled the world covering the major stories of our time including the release of Nelson Mandela, the death of Princess Diana, war in Iraq, the Pakistan Earthquake and the rise of China.

Stan has won many major awards including an Australian TV Logie, a Columbia University Du-Pont Award, and the prestigious U.S. Peabody Award. He is a four-time winner of the highly prized Asia TV Awards, including reporter of the year. Stan has written The Tears of Strangers and Talking to My Country and has published numerous articles and opinion pieces for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

Stan is currently the Indigenous Affairs Editor for the ABC and special advisor to the Prime Minister on Indigenous constitutional recognition.


Professor Tom Calma, AO
Professor Calma is an Aboriginal Elder of the Kungarankan and member of the Iwaidja traditional owner groups of the Northern Territory. Prof Calma has been involved in Indigenous affairs at the local, community, territory, state, national and international level and has worked in the public sector for over 40 years.

Professor Calma was a senior Australian Diplomat in India and Vietnam from 1995 to 2001 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2004 to 2010 and he also served as Race Discrimination Commissioner from 2004 to 2009.

During this time Professor Calma was instrumental in the establishment of the Close the Gap for Indigenous Health Equality Campaign, effectively bringing national attention and action to achieving health equality for Indigenous peoples by 2030.

Professor Calma is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment and was also instrumental in establishing the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, and promotion of Justice Reinvestment.
Professor Calma is a Professor at the University of Sydney, Chancellor of the University of Canberra, Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia and National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking.

Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA
Dr Jackie Huggins is a Bidjara (central Queensland) and Birri-Gubba Juru (North Queensland) woman from Queensland who has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for over thirty years. She is a celebrated historian and author who has documented the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the decades.

In 2001, Dr Huggins received the Member of the Order of Australia for services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Throughout her career spanning over four decades, Jackie has played a leading role in reconciliation, literacy, women’s issues and social justice.

Dr Huggins holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland and Flinders University (with Honours), a Diploma of Education and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Queensland. Most recently, she was the Director of Jackie Huggins and Associates, a consultancy business, following a long and distinguished record of public service and professional achievement.

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC
Bryan Keon-Cohen is a barrister, writer and activist. He was born and educated (Scotch College) in Melbourne and graduated LLM, LLB, BA from Melbourne University in 1971. He thereafter lectured at Monash University law school, worked with Kirby J at the Australian Law Reform Commission in Sydney (1978-1980) on the reference concerning the recognition of Aboriginal customary law, and joined the Victorian Bar in 1981. He was junior counsel for the plaintiffs throughout the Mabo litigation (1982 – 1992); has acted for claimants in many native title and immigration matters in the Federal Court; has appeared in the High Court in significant constitutional, native title and refugee matters; and has written and lectured extensively on Indigenous rights. In 2012 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the law; and graduated PhD from Monash University, leading to the publication of his thesis/book: A Mabo Memoir: Islan Kustom to Native Title (Zemvic Press, 2013). He retired from active practice in 2016. He is married to June, a lawyer. They have three daughters and four grandchildren.

Jayde Geia
Jayde Geia’s family come from both Yarrabah (Gunggandji) and Moa Island (St Pauls and Kubin). Jayde currently works as a Senior Consultant at EY in Canberra.

Before EY, Jayde practiced as a commercial lawyer for 6 years working as a solicitor at Allens Linklaters, legal counsel with the Queensland Investment Corporation and as a Judge’s Associate to His Honour Judge Everson. Jayde volunteers her time with a number of organisations including First Nations Foundation (Board Director), The Smith’s Family (Advisory Member) and until her recent move to Canberra also served as a Council Member on Queensland’s Multicultural Council, and volunteered with AFL Queensland’s Diversity Board (Board Member and founding Chair).

Vonda Malone
Vonda Malone created history in March 2016 being elected the first indigenous female Mayor of the Torres Shire Council, a mainstream council encompassing the Kaiwalagal area of the Torres Strait. Vonda is a change maker, an accomplished role model, a strong advocate and a very community focused leader. Over her career she has achieved unique milestones being the first Torres Strait Island women to work internationally through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Vonda holds 24 years’ experience working within Australian and State Governments, and extensive experience in Indigenous affairs and health service delivery in remote communities across Cape York and the Torres Strait. Vonda is a strong advocate and role model for Indigenous women. Over the past 19 years Vonda has played a crucial role in advancing women’s issues in the Torres Strait. Vonda is a graduate of Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk Program and through her significant achievements Oxfam showcases her as a major successor of the program.

Vonda has been integral in driving health services delivery in the Torres Strait since 2011 through her former roles as Executive Director of Primary Health Care with the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Services (TCHHS), Senior Manager, Far North Queensland Medicare Local and Executive Manager, Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Health Partnership, Torres Strait Regional Authority.

In addition, Vonda has 18 years’ experience working with the Torres Strait Regional Authority across all program areas holding various middle and senior management positions, and is also a recipient of the 2001 Centenary Medal for her contribution to the Torres Strait.


Sue Ray
Sue Ray was coining the Americana genre fifteen years ago when she first stepped on stage. The multi-award-winning singer/songwriter captivates audiences with her haunting, emotionally charged lyrics, considered compositions and smoky, molasses-rich voice. After two years in Nashville where she worked alongside industry greats and ran a showcase of Australian music, Sue has released her latest offering Live at the Junk Bar.

Sue Ray has performed at the Americana Music Conference, Nashville International Film Festival, Woodford Folk Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival and supported Dan Sultan, The Wilson Pickers, Megan Washington, Mental as Anything and Halfway, proving her musical versatility.

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QPAC First Nations

Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.