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Mabo High Court Decision – 25th Anniversary

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Five Indigenous men, one Indigenous woman and one non-Indigenous man stand in half circle in front of a statue of a woman holding a sword in the right hand and a set of scales in the left.  Words: 25 years sinc The Mabo Decision Remember
They fought for their land and changed Australia
2 Jun 2017

Saturday, 3 June 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2).

The ‘Mabo Decision’ takes its name from Eddie Koiki Mabo, one of the plaintiffs in the case. Along with Sam Passi, Reverend Dave Passi, James Rice and Mrs Celuia Mapo Salee, he challenged the legal standing that his family’s land was actually owned by ‘the Crown’.

The High Court’s landmark decision overthrew that standing and paved the way for native title.

Native title is the recognition by Australian law that Indigenous people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and custom.

As part of the many celebrations around Australia, the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) has published a commemorative website called 25 Years of Native Title Recognition.

The website traces the history of native title from the Mabo decision in 1992 and features interviews with significant contributors to native title. They include Mr Greg McIntyre SC and Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC, legal counsel to the Mabo plaintiffs. It features testimony from Traditional Owners and their representatives about the benefits native title has brought to communities.

One interview features Colleen Wall, Chairperson of Queensland South Native Title Services who speaks of 25 years since the Mabo determination.

“The best benefit that we get from having native title and getting consent determination is having a consolidated bunch of rights,” Colleen said.

“We have responsibility for our country, we have recognition that we are the traditional owners of the country and we can take that bundle of rights into the future to protect our land, and that our children have the right to carry on processes on country.”

“It is also important that we recognise the determination of all the people who work behind native title. We have to recognise the amount of years collectively that has gone past to get to where we are now, so that’s 25 years of lots and lots of tears and joy and hard work and miles travelled to get where we are now.”

“Our legacy and the way we go forward from Mabo, is taking that tenacity and taking that dedication and taking that strong mindedness into the future to make sure that we have honoured what Eddie [Mabo] did.”

Join us in celebrating the 25th anniversary of this historic event in native title history.

Find out more

To keep up to date with 25th Anniversary news, visit 25 Years of Native Title Recognition.

For more information on native title and the role of the Tribunal and Registrar, visit the National Native Title Tribunal.