Birthdays you should know:
To many the name Mabo is synonymous with the famous court seen in the Australian film The Castle in which Denis Denuto closes his argument with “in summing up, it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe and aah no that’s it, it’s the vibe. I rest my case”. The reality is that Eddie Mabo (29 June 1936 - 21 January 1992) is much more to Australia and Australians than a meme from a movie.
Mabo was born on the island of Mer (part of the Torres Straight islands off the coast of Australia) before finding his way to mainland Australia and gaining work as a Gardiner at James Cook University in Townsville. In 1972, whilst attempting to visit his gravely ill (adopted) father, Mabo was refused permission from the Queensland government to travel back to Mer. His daughter, Gail, states that the incident “fuelled his determination for recognition and equality in society” and ultimately led to his decade long legal battle for political status.
It was in 1981 that Mabo gave his first speech at a land rights conference at the James Cook university regarding traditional land ownership on Mer Island. Present at the speech was a unnamed lawyer who suggested that there should be a test case to claim land rights through the court system. In 1982 Mabo (with the aid of David Passi, Celuia Mapoo Salee, Sam Passi and James Rice, and represented by Ron Castan, Bryan Keon-Cohen and Greg McIntyre) launched the famous “Mabo v Queensland (No 2)” court case (commonly now referred to as the “Mabo case”) in which they challenged the legal doctrine of ‘terra nullius’ and claimed legal ownership of their lands on the island of Mer. Ten years later, in June of 1993 (and thus unfortunately several months after Mabo’s passing) the High Court Of Australia ruled in favour of Mabo and his fellow plaintiffs. The decision is considered by many a landmark case in Australian law and has paved the way for further claims of traditional land rights.