The date 3 June 1992 is forever remembered as a victory for Indigenous land rights with the High Court of Australia’s landmark decision in the case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) – more commonly known as simply Mabo. Mabo marked the first formal recognition of Indigenous land rights in Australia. The High Court overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius (‘land belonging to nothing, no one’) which implied that no-one held ownership of the land until the arrival of European settlers.
One of the main agitators for Indigenous land rights was Torres Strait Islander and land rights activist Eddie Koiki Mabo. In 1982 Eddie Mabo and four other Meriam people from Mer in the Torres Strait began legal action in the High Court of Australia. Sadly Eddie Mabo died five months before the High Court’s decision after 10 years of struggle.
State Library of Queensland holds several items relating to the Mabo decision.
- OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books – these books contain newspaper clippings relating to the Mabo case between November 1990 and October 1994
- 29122 Album of Photographs Relating to the Mabo Case on Mer Island 1989 – a photographic account of the proceedings of the Mabo case on Mer (Murray Island)
- 6837 Justice Moynihan – Determination re Mabo Case Papers 27 Feb 1986 – three bound volumes regarding the determination of a reference from the High Court of Australia of the factual issues raised in the action by Eddie Mabo and others, prepared by Justice Moynihan.
Mabo is celebrated each year as part of National Reconciliation Week.