(Warning: this post contains the name and image of a deceased Indigenous person.)
Today marks 28 years since Eddie Mabo’s landmark win, forcing the recognition of Indigenous native title. Eddie (or Koiki as he was affectionately known) a proud Torres Strait Islander man from Mer Island, had told his teenage daughter before winning the landmark case, “One day, my girl, all of Australia is going to know my name.”
One day, my girl, all of Australia is going to know my name.
And boy, was he right.
Mr. Mabo won the case, overturning the false truths that had been written into Australia’s history. The false tale of terra nullius - the claim that Australia was uninhabited when it was first discovered by the British. The case recognised the traditional land rights of the Meriam people and paved the way for native title recognition right across Australia.
Mr. Mabo’s case created a profound change to the course of Australian history, with laws having to be re-written in order to reflect this newly exposed truth. Since then, there have been 141 native title declarations, covering at least 16 per cent of Australia.
The date of Mr. Mabo’s win marks the last day of Reconciliation Week, and is celebrated each year, and with particular gusto in in the Torres Strait - with large gatherings and festivals being held there each year to commemorate their beloved Grandad Koiki. This year’s celebrations were much different to other years due to Covid-19 restrictions, though the senior elders of the nearby regions still celebrated in a small gathering.
Eddie Koiki Mabo was an inspiration and living proof of the difference that one person’s voice can make. Although great progress has been made since Eddie’s landmark case, there is still so much work to be done, as our First Nations peoples continue to struggle to have their voices heard. Let us take inspiration from Eddie’s story, and come together and speak up against injustice. Every voice, every step taken, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Together we are many, and together we can help to change things for the better.
On this final day of Reconciliation Week, and every other day, we acknowledge the Yugambeh and Kombumerri people, the traditional owners of this land on which we operate and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
(Image Source: Indigenous.gov.au)