25th anniversary of the Mabo decision

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.

Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

Front cover of OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

Front cover of OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

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.

Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland

Mabo is celebrated each year as part of National Reconciliation Week.