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Mabo Day is marked every year on 3 June to recognise Uncle Eddie Koiki Mabo, a Mer Island man, and his fight to overturn the colonial doctrine of ‘terra nullius’, which characterised the land as uninhabited prior to colonisation, thereby legitimising the Crown’s appropriation. Eddie Koiki Mabo, Reverend David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee contested the assertion that their ancestral territory was under the ownership of the Crown.

The ruling by the High Court in Mabo v Queensland [No 2] refuted this assertion, establishing a legal precedent in Australia for acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stewardship of our customary lands.

The Mabo verdict marked a pivotal juncture in Australian history. Beyond dispelling a longstanding colonial misconception, it opened avenues for subsequent claims to native title. In response, the Australian Parliament enacted the Native Title Act 1993 the following year, although this is not without its issues. There are lots of ways to join in to celebrate the life of this remarkable man, and to acknowledge all who took part in the legal battle.