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Honouring ATSICHS Brisbane founder Uncle Steve Mam

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains the name and photos of a deceased person.

Uncle Steve Mam was born in 1938 to parents William Jerimiah Mam and Geripo May Mam (née Lee) in St Paul’s Village on Moa Island, in the near Western group of the Torres Strait.

He was a co-founding member of AICHS, as well as Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Black Community Housing Service. He and his wife, Aunty Pamela Mam, were instrumental in establishing the Jimbelunga Nursing Centre in 1994.

Beyond this, he played a significant role in many First Nations community organisations and representative bodies and believed a strong foundation for individuals, families and the community was essential for the wellbeing and success of his people.

He was elected Regional Councillor of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1989 when the Commission was established and remained in this role until its finish in 2004.

Uncle Steve was a strong and passionate supporter of autonomy for First Nations people. He believed in the importance of self-determination and economic development and always said it was important to ‘listen, understand, ask questions and take action’.

During the referendum in 1967, Uncle Steve committed himself to helping First Nations People in their fight for recognition and independence and began his career as a political activist. This included fighting for Kupai Omaska, the act of Traditional Adoption, to be recognised legally in Australia.

Uncle Steve was heavily involved in managing the Warriors Rugby League team and supporting the Brisbane Natives, Kangaroos and many community organisations. Inna Torres Strait Islanders Incorporation, Born-Free Club, Kambu Medical Centre, Yalangi Preschool, the Dreamtime Cultural Centre, the National Secretariat of Torres Strait Islanders, the National Indigenous Development Alliance (NIDA) and the Wagga Torres Strait Islanders Dance Company all had the privilege of Uncle Steve’s involvement and guidance.

In 1979 he became a founding member and State Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) and was a Native Title political supporter during the famous Mabo High Court hearings. Later in 2005, he was named NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year.

In April 2016, he passed away and is survived by his sons, daughter, son-in-law, daughters-in-law, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

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