Uncle Steve Mam
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.
Over the course of his life, Uncle Steve has had experience across numerous industries, including cultural, social, political and economic development, along with education, housing, health and sport.
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.
As a Torres Strait Islander Elder, Uncle Steve is a senior member of the community, and acts as a cultural advisor, mentor and supporter. He gives advice about culture and family as well as being a spiritual advisor. He explains “it is not to tell people what to do, but to create an opportunity people may learn from.”
He believes that culture plays a key role in society. “It is through culture that community receives knowledge, wisdom and understanding, and becomes the key to the world.” When discussing culture in society, he explains that culture enables individuals to see all the cards on the tables, with no aces hidden up the sleeve.
Keeping culture and tradition alive in today’s increasingly modernised world can be challenging. Uncle Steve believes that misleading information about culture and people is damaging people’s perspectives and disregarding the importance of culture and tradition, saying that “people must be allowed to receive the truths of life, in all forms.”
As a Torres Strait Islander Elder, he holds a strong connection to the land, saying “In these contemporary times we also struggle to convey the importance of connection to country and ‘place.’”
Uncle Steve Mam believes 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.
He is a strong supporter of self-autonomy, self-determination and economic development, and says it is important to “listen, understand, ask questions and take action”.