Rembering the Mabo Decision


Ever since Captain James Cook‘s declaration of possession in 1770, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have fought against the dispossession of their lands, food sources, waterways, families and homelands.

First English, then Australian law justified it’s own existence through the concept of Terra nullius. The application of terra nullius, a latin term meaning land belonging to no one, meant that Aboriginal People’s prior ownership and prior existence, and therefore prior rights, were unrecognized. The Mabo Case was the first recognition by Australian Common Law that Terra nullius was in fact a legal fiction.

Since 1992, there has been a lot of changes and interpretations about the Mabo decision and Native Title more broadly. There have been both positive and negative outcomes. These vary across the nation. Regardless, we recognise the achievement of Eddie Mabo and many other people in having the legal fiction of terra nullius overturned.

Individual Student Activity:

1. Watch the video: History of Native Title on the National Native Title Tribunal website.

2. Create a copy of the Blacklines_FreeCraftSheets_Mabo Day for each student.

3. On your class wiki, link to The Critical Classroom blog post “Remembering the Mabo Decision – Student Links ” that provides a number of hyperlinks to websites exploring Eddie Mabo and the Mabo decision.

4. Download the Remembering the Mabo Decision poster. Laminate it and place it on the wall next to the class computers.

5. Encourage students to answer as many questions as they can on the “Your Research” page of their booklet.

6. Give students an opportunity to do the Remember The Mabo Decision puzzle.

Research questions for the students:
  • Who was Eddie Koiki Mabo?
  • What is a legal decision?
  • Why was the Mabo decision important?
  • What is the High Court of Australia?
  • In your own words, what was Eddie Mabo fighting for?

Links for Teachers:

Video: History of Native Title

Study Notes for Mabo: Life of an Island Man Documentary

Eddie Mabo & Others vs State of Queensland

Mabo: The Native Title Revolution