Mabo Day, June 3

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that the following story may contain images and names of deceased persons.

The 3rd of June marks Mabo Day, a historical and important day for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. Mabo Day is when we remember Eddie Koiki Mabo. We celebrate and recognise one man’s fight and triumphant win that would change his life and family forever; and in turn, opened doorways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to enact their cultural rights and claims to live by their lore and custodial and cultural practices on their lands and waters.

So how did this happen?

Eddie Koiki Mabo's campaign for Indigenous land rights led to a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia, on 3 June 1992 that overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius which had characterised Australian law with regards to land and title since the voyage of Captain James Cook to Australian shores in 1770.

The law library (temporarily closed due to Ligertwood building lockdown) holds extensive material on the Mabo Case, which recognised a form of native title that reflects the entitlement of the Indigenous inhabitants, in accordance with the laws or customs, to their traditional lands. There are excellent resources available online and in print: Case law, Legislation, extensive commentary and discussion in books and journals across the legal spectrum.

The Mabo case is discussed in many legal areas and changed the game of Law disciplines from Australasian dispute resolution, Sentencing; Conveyancing, Evidence, Constitutional law, Admin law, Foreign Investment, Land and Environment, Property Law, Land Law, and of course Mining. If searching online, use the Westlaw AU legal research database, type in the case citation '175 CLR 1' and explore the case, cases citing, and secondary material commentary about it.

Suggested films and books about Eddie Koiki Mabo and the Mabo case from the library’s Indigenous Collection and Yaitya Ngutupira include The Land Bilong Islanders, the 1989 documentary, the only film record of the Mabo proceedings. The follow up feature documentary that deals with the life of Eddie titled Mabo: Life of an island man tells the private and public stories of an island man so passionate about family and home that he fought an entire nation and its legal system. Both films are available for viewing and streaming via Kanopy available through the library.

Recommended books from Yaitya Ngutupira and the Law Library include:

  • Edward Koiki Mabo His Life & Struggle for Land Rights by Noel Loos and Koiki Mabo.
  • Mabo; Wik & native title by Peter Butt.
  • Mabo: what the High Court said by Peter Butt. 1993.
  • The Law of the Land by Henry Reynolds; 3rd ed, 2003.

Sadly, Eddie Koiki Mabo passed away 5 months before the Australian High Court judgment was handed down, but his name and memory lives on. On the 3rd June we commemorate Eddie Koiki Mabo and his campaign to recognise rights to his land and determined battle to gain justice for Indigenous people.

Tagged in mabo day, yaitya ngutupira, national reconciliation week