Mabo Day occurs annually in Australia on 3rd June. It commemorates Edward (Eddie) Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), a Torres Strait Islander whose campaign for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights led to a landmark decision in the High Court of Australia on 3rd June 1992 that overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius, which had characterised Australian law with respect to land and title since the voyage of Captain James Cook in 1770.
Eddie Mabo was a staff member at JCU, working as a groundsman from 1967 to 1971. From 1973-1983 he established and became director of the Black Community School in Townsville. During this time he enrolled as a student and studied teaching at the College of Advanced Education, which later amalgamated with JCU. It was through his association with JCU humanities and education staff, Professor Henry Reynolds and Associate Professor Noel Loos, that Eddie became interested in who owned the land on which his people lived, and in Native Title.
Eddie Mabo's legal pursuit of these issues resulted in one of the most significant legal cases in Australian history, in that it completely overturned the idea of terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) and challenged traditionally held beliefs about how Australia came into being, and about ownership of land.
On 3 June 1992, six of seven Australian High Court judges ruled: The Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the lands of the Murray Islands [in Torres Strait].
For many at JCU, the landmark legal decision has been rendered personal, as well as political and historic, because of Eddie's important association with JCU staff and students, and with our surrounding communities.
2009 Presentation by Professor Ross Garnaut, Vice-Chancellor's Fellow and Professorial Fellow in Economics, The University of Melbourne, and Distinguished Professor, The Australian University
2008 Presentation by The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
2006 Presentation by Professor Larissa Behrendt
2005 Presentation by Mr Hugh Mackay
People, identity and place. A fair go in an age of terror: countering the terrorist threat to human rights and the Australian identity (PDF, 432 KB)
2004 Presentation by Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO