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Native Title: Mabo

Year 10 History



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This is a biography of Eddie Mabo, the leading plaintiff in the Mabo Case, his strength and determination made native title in Australia a reality.


Born on 29 June 1936 in his village of Las on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait, Eddie Koiki Mabo was the fourth child of Robert Zesou Sambo and Poipe (Sambo) Mabo. His mother passed away shortly after his birth and he was adopted by his Uncle Benny and Aunty Maigo Mabo in line with Islander custom.

Working with Indigenous Australians


Mabo's legacy resulted in the Native Title Act of Australia of 1993 - an important step forward for the country in land use, access and ownership.

The story of Eddie 'Koiki' Mabo, the Torres Strait Islander who left school at 15, yet spearheaded the High Court challenge that overthrew the fiction of terra nullius. Cast: Deborah Mailman, Jimi Bani.


Summary: The High Court's Mabo Decision in late 1992 was probably the most significant legal decision ever made by an Australian court. Sadly though, it led to widespread scaremongering by sections of the community and the so-called 'Mabo Myths' put Aboriginal spokespeople firmly on the back foot. Lateline carefully examines the myths related to the security of various types of land title in Australia and, as one observer said, 'admirably clarifies the decision and its meaning for all Australians'.

You Tube

Eddie Mabo's epic struggle in the High Court for the recognition of native title marked a milestone for the Indigenous movement in Australia.


On 3 June 1992 the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island).

On 3 June 2012, Australians will commemorate Mabo Day, marking the twentieth anniversary of the historic Mabo decision.

Eddie Mabo of Mer island in the Torres Strait spent a decade seeking official recognition of his people’s ownership of Mer and on 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia agreed, rejecting the doctrine that Australia was terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) at the time of European settlement.

ABC News

Edward Koiki Mabo was born on Mer (Murray) Island in 1936, and was adopted by his uncle, Benny Mabo shortly following his mother's death. Eddie was exiled from the Island when he was 16, and worked across northern Queensland and the Torres Strait before settling in Townsville with his young family in 1962.

Nowl Loos

Edward Koiki Mabo was a Meriam man from one of the most remote islands in the Torres Strait, Murray Island. He decided early in his life that he had to master the ways of the Whites to exist in the society that the Whites dominated, but never to lose his Islander custom and language.

ABC Radio National Podcast

It's been 30 years since Mabo, the landmark decision marking the start of Indigenous land rights. On the last day of the largest Indigenous conference in Australia, what more needs to be done?

Guest:Kevin Smith, Lawyer and CEO of Queensland South Native Title Services