The significance of Mabo Day

Alicia Janz is a Meriam Mer woman and former Fremantle and West Coast AFLW player. She has penned a thought-provoking piece about Eddie Mabo and the signficance of ‘Mabo Day’ on June 3 on the Indigenous calendar.

Words from Alicia Janz

I am a proud Merrium Mer woman with ties to Erub island and it is my honour to share a snippet of the late Eddie Koiki Mabo’s legacy.

This Friday marks the 30th Anniversary of Eddie Koiki Mabo winning a decade long court case to recognise his land ‘ownership’ of Las on Mer island.

Not only did he have to prove a continuous unbroken connection to land predating colonisation, but argue his ancestral inheritance of Las. An inheritance through traditional adoption that wasn’t recognised by Queensland Law until 2020.

Sadly, he passed away a few months prior to hearing the court decide in his favour. However, his resistance, courage and dedication to have our birthright declared in Australian Federal Law, advanced all Australian First Nation peoples claim on land and seas.

For over two centuries prior, our Country was settled on the notion of ‘terra nullius’ meaning ‘land belonging to no one.’ A land occupied by nomadic people, a fabrication permitting the dispossession and destruction of traditional lands without consultation or consequence.

Whilst it was a momentous win, what then did this mean for settlers that possessed, excavated and benefited for over 75 per cent of ‘stolen’ Australian land? What of our influential people who fought for land rights in previous decades; the Gurindji people led by Vincent Lingiari (from little things big things grow) and the Yolngu people with their Yirrkala bark petition?

It truly is an odd circumstance to comprehend.

60,000-year-old First Nations must prove to a Country that didn’t exist 250 years ago, that we managed and belong to our land and seas.

Especially when every part of our being knows where we belong as well as our inherent responsibility from our ancestors to care for Country.

If the land we are obligated to care for is destroyed beyond repair, who is to blame for failing a 60,000-year-old legacy? Are our actions or inaction destroying or protecting the oldest living culture in the world’s inheritance?

The views is this story are that of the authors and do not necessarily represent that of the organisation