3 June is Mabo Day and, as we commemorate the extraordinarily courageous efforts of Eddie Koiki Mabo to overturn the notion that his Country on Mer (Murray Island) was terra nullius (land belonging to no one), we should also champion all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have battled for land rights, and those who empower and inspire each other.
Today we recognise your long history of caring for Country, your resilience, and your survival.
Tagai has significance to the people of the Zendah Kes (Torres Straits), and has a powerful connection to Gail Mabo’s father, Eddie Koiki Mabo.
Despite a 1996 High Court ruling against them, the Wik continued to fight for recognition of their people and land, and in 2000 the High Court conferred Country and its use back to the Wik.
Bobby West Tjupurrula completed this painting for the High Court’s 2001 Native Title determination which finally granted Pintupi people rights to their homelands.
Tjitjiti is the site of a great salt lake, and Carlene West’s birthplace. In the late 1990s she and other Spinifex artists began painting to evidence their innate connection to Country. Their land was returned in 2000.
Djambawa Marawili actively coordinated the Federal Court sea claim in 2004, which eventuated in the High Court determining in 2008 that Aboriginal people own the land between the low and high water mark.
Using Australia Post canvas bags, Kumanara Williams writes, ‘Australia: Open your ears and listen! This has always been Aboriginal land. Theft or misuse of this manta (land) is a criminal offence, penalties apply.’
Pouring soil in Vincent Lingiari’s hand, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said: ‘Vincent Lingiari … I put into your hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.’