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Mabo Day

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

Minister for Indigenous Australians
The Hon Linda Burney MP

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 racial discrimination."

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 expectancy.

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.