THE HON LINDA BURNEY MP
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Today we celebrate three decades of the landmark High Court decision Mabo v Qld (No 2)
and honour the legacy of the man behind that ruling, Eddie Koiki Mabo.
The High Court decision on 3 June 1992 forever changed the legal face of traditional land
ownership for First Nations peoples.
Mabo recognised for the first time under Australian law that Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples have lived in Australia for thousands of years and their rights to their land
according to their own laws and customs not only pre-dated, but survived settlement and
continue to this day.
As the Hon Sir Francis Gerard Brennan held in the lead judgment, “it is imperative in
today’s world that the common law should neither be nor be seen to be frozen in an age of
Mabo threw out the legal doctrine of terra nullius and paved the way for the Native Title
Act. The Government continues to work on reconciliation and the long overdue recognition
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution.
As former Prime Minister Paul Keating said in his Redfern Park speech, “by doing away
with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to the settlement of
Europeans, Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice.”
We have come a long way, as a nation, since Mabo, but we are painfully aware of how
much further we still need to travel before we have true reconciliation.
The hopes and dreams that Eddie Koiki Mabo’s victory unleashed will not be fulfilled until
we have completely closed the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
and the rest of our nation on health, education, opportunity, standard of living and life
And we will not have completed Eddie Koiki Mabo’s fight until we have fully embraced the
generous offer of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for a true partnership to pursue
meaningful reconciliation as a nation.
3 JUNE 2022