Was browsing last night through William Dampier's account of his 1699 visit to west Australia and parts north and east when I came across this sentence:

"We passed by many small islands, and among many dangerous shoals without any remarkable occurrence till the 4th of February, when we got within three leagues of the north-west cape of New Guinea, called by the Dutch Cape Mabo."

Mabo in Australia has a significance equal to that of Waitangi in Aotearoa; it was a case pursued through the courts by one Eddie Mabo, a Murray Islander from Torres Strait, for ten years which finally saw the overthrow, in 1992, of the British doctrine of terra nullius, which alleged the whole country to be empty of civilized humans and therefore denying Aborigines land rights.

What kind of word is Mabo, I wonder? Surely not Dutch: is it then one they picked up from local usage? Eddie Mabo grew up as Eddie Sambo, but took the name of his Uncle and Aunt who adopted him during his adolesence. But the word ... where does the word come from?

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