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Mabo Day 2022 — 30th Anniversary of Mabo decision

As the 30th anniversary of the Mabo High Court decision on 3 June 2022 approaches, we remember the knowledge Eddie Koiki Mabo shared with the James Cook University community and the ongoing legacy of the decision, as it significantly altered the foundation of land law in Australia.

Mabo and Others v Queensland (No 2) was a landmark case which overturned the myth that at the time of colonisation Australia was 'terra nullius' or land belonging to no-one. The Court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people in Australia prior to the establishment of the British Colony of New South Wales in 1788 and that this title exists today in any portion of land where it has not legally been extinguished. Justice Brennan declared in the course of his judgement:

The common law of this country would perpetuate injustice if it were to continue to embrace the enlarged notion of terra nullius and to persist in characterising the Indigenous inhabitants of the Australian colonies as people too low in the scale of social organisation to be acknowledged as possessing rights and interests in land.

The decision of the High Court was followed by Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) which recognises the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in land and waters according to their traditonal laws and customs.

Sadly Eddie Koiki Mabo, Sam Passi and Celuia Mapo Salee (three of the five plaintiffs) died before the judgement was passed down on 3 June 1992 - ten years after the claim was first lodged.

The James Cook University Libraries hold many items for you to brush up on your knowledge about this important case in our Nation's history.

This short video from the North Queensland Collection is an excerpt from one of the 50 Treasures: Celebrating 50 Years of James Cook University (2020). It is called the Torres Strait Islander Community lecture delivered by Eddie Koiki Mabo to students from Townsville College of Advanced Education in October 1982.

To view the entire 52 minute digitised version of this treasure, go to NQHeritage@JCU


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