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Every year on 3 June we celebrate Mabo Day, which commemorates the life of Eddie Koiko Mabo and marks the anniversary of the historic 1992 Mabo decision.

Eddie Mabo was a Torres Strait Islander man who challenged the claim that his family’s traditional land was owned by the Crown. The High Court’s decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned that claim and set a precedent in Australian law for the recognition of Indigenous custodianship over their traditional land.

The decision also overturned the colonial concept of terra nullius, Latin for ‘nobody’s land’. At the time of European settlement of Australia, terra nullius was used to justify the British Crown’s claim on the land - as though it was previously unoccupied territory.

The Mabo decision was a watershed moment in Australian history. In addition to overturning a long-held colonial myth, it paved the way for subsequent native title claims. The Australian Parliament passed the Native Title Act 1993 the following year.

Sadly, Eddie Mabo died several months before the decision was handed down, though his legacy lives on.

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