Uncle Steve Mam was born at St Paul’s Mission on Moa Island, in the lower Western group of the Torres Strait, in 1938 to parents William Jerimiah Mam and Geripo May Mam (nee Lee). Despite only completing seven years of schooling, Uncle Steve Mam has achieved a lot in his lifetime, dedicated to the struggle for Indigenous rights which earned him the title of NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year in 2005.
During his youth, Uncle Steve Mam tried his hand at a myriad of experiences. He has worked as an apprentice baker, as a trochus shell diver, on a fishing boat, a cane farm and the railways, throughout the Torres Strait, Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone.
At the young age of 22, Uncle Steve walked from Brisbane to Canberra to fight for political rights. By the age of 23, he was married to the first Aboriginal nurse from Palm Island (an Aboriginal mission), Aunty Pamela Mam (nee Ah-kee / Bligh).
During the 1967 referendum, Uncle Steve became a political activist. This was the turning point in his life where he decided to commit himself to helping Aboriginal people.
From 1973 to 2016, Uncle Steve was committed to continuing to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, by being a co-founding member of the Aboriginal & Islanders Community Health Service (AICHS), Aboriginal Legal Services, and Black Community Housing Service. He has also committed himself to fight for Kupai Omaska, the act of Traditional Adoption to be recognised legally in Australia.
Uncle Steve was also involved in the Torres Strait Warriors Rugby League team, the 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.
In 1979, he was a founding member and State Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Conferrence (NAC) and was a Native Title political supporter during the famous Mabo High Court hearings.
Uncle Steve Mam’s accolades also include being the first Reconciliation Australia Field Officer for Brisbane and the first Torres Strait Islander delegate for the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP).
He played a significant role in numerous Indigenous community organisations and representative bodies, and was the elected Regional Councillor of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) from its inception in 1989 until its finish in 2004.
Uncle Steve Mam believed that a strong foundation for individuals, families and the community are essential, and that it is vital that you understand the principles you stand for.
Uncle Steve was a strong supporter of self-autonomy, self-determination and economic development, and says it is important to “listen, understand, ask questions and take action”.
In memory Uncle Steve Mam 1938-2016.