It's Mambo vs Mabo as surf brand rides into aboriginal spat

It is Mambo versus Mabo, and it looks like the Australian surfwear company whose T-shirts feature a cartoon Jesus and farting dogs picked the wrong fight.

Eddie Mabo is Australia's best-known land rights activist; his campaigning led to a landmark High Court ruling in 1992 which overturned the notion that the continent was empty before Europeans arrived. His son, Malcolm, wants to launch a clothing range under the name Mabo, featuring indigenous artworks including his own designs. This week it emerged that Mambo is opposing Mr Mabo's application to trademark his family name and logo – a move greeted with near universal condemnation.

While the company quickly softened its stance, its managing director, Angus Kingsmill, said yesterday he was still concerned about the similarity between the brand names, and about Mr Mabo's plans to produce beach and surfwear.

Eddie Mabo, who died in 1992, was from an island in the Torres Strait, between north-eastern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Malcolm lives on Palm Island, off the north Queensland coast. Few in his impoverished community have jobs. He says his business will provide work. "We need to break the welfare cycle and create an economy in these communities," he said.

He was "pretty surprised" by Mambo's objections. "It's my name; I can't change it," he said. The idea he should produce no surfwear was "pretty silly" given that "we are salt-water people; we come from the islands".

Mambo – once seen as radical, now considered quite mainstream – has promoted indigenous causes. At the time of the High Court decision, it produced a T-shirt with the slogan "100 per cent Mabo". It pilloried the right-wing firebrand Pauline Hanson, donating the proceeds to an Aboriginal arts development group whose funding she sought to cut.

Founded in 1984, Mambo is clearly mortified by the bad publicity. Mr Kingsmill claimed the media had concocted the dispute. "Mambo totally supports Mabo," he said. "We are sensitive and respectful of the great Mabo name and its place in Australian history."

The High Court judgment, rejecting the doctrine of terra nullius (or land belonging to no one), paved the way for Aboriginal people to reclaim their ancestral lands. But many indigenous communities remain blighted by poverty and dysfunction. Brian Acre, who is the chief executive of the North Queensland Small Business Development Centre, believes Mr Mabo's venture will create jobs and business opportunities. "The Mabo name is very powerful, and we can leverage off that," said Mr Acre, whose organisation has invested in the company and supports the legal fight.

Mr Kingsmill said Mambo has always made it clear it wished to resolve matters amicably. Both sides will hold a phone conference next week, but Mr Mabo has no plans to abandon his name.

"We'll be doing something quite different from Mambo, and people will be able to tell," he said. "Why should they try and stop something that is going to benefit indigenous people? Are they afraid of a bit of competition?"

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup