After years of resistance and resilience in the face of colonisation and a system of denial, the claim of native title by Eddie Koiki Mabo was recognised by the High Court of Australia – overturning two centuries of the lie of terra nullius. What followed was the creation of the Native Title Act (1993) that embedded native title at the forefront of our relationship to, and between each other. In the Preamble, it states:

Justice requires that, if acts that extinguish native title are to be validated or to be allowed, compensation on just terms, and with a special right to negotiate its form, must be provided to the holders of the native title. However, where appropriate, the native title should not be extinguished but revive after a validated act ceases to have effect.

Native Title is the recognition under Commonwealth law that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights and interests to lands and waters according to their traditional laws and customs.

Native title laws enacted in 1993 were intended to ‘rectify past injustices’ and raised hopes that the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be measurably improved.

The Native Title Act attempted to clarify the legal position of non-Indigenous landholders and the process for claiming, protecting and recognising native title in the courts. The native title system ‘lumbers on’, but questions remain about how fair or equitable it is.

Over the last 30 years, the native title system has become complex, costly and slow, with the odds weighted against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Looking back on the three decades since the Mabo decision, it is clear that we have made significant progress. But the promise of Mabo has not yet been fully realised.

New papers out now

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision, ANTaR has published these new resources:

New call to action

‘On the 30th anniversary of the landmark High Court decision paving the way for native title cases, the grandson of legendary First Nations land rights activist Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), has called for Mabo Day, June 3, to be declared a national public holiday.’ NITV Radio

‘Where do we go from here? Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the landmark decision, Mr Mabo’s grandson Kaleb Mabo told NITV that Mabo Day is a day for everybody to celebrate – not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“That is why I’ve started to push for this day to become a national public holiday so Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people can recognise it for what it is,” Kaleb said.

“It’s the day that white Australia recognised Indigenous Australians, First Nations people, the ones that were here first.”‘ SBS News

[Kaleb] Mabo has been working alongside the National Native Title Council to push for ‘Mabo Day’ on June 3, to become a National Public Holiday. ABC News