What is Mabo Day?

Australia celebrates Mabo Day on 3 June, as part of National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June).

It is important for us to understand the importance of this celebration for Australia so that we can share the message with our kids.

Terra Nullius?

Australian Law regarded the country’s land as “terra nullius” after James Cook’s arrival in 1770. This meant, literally, that the land belonged to no one — and that settlers were free to claim the land for themselves.

Obviously, this wasn’t true. The country wasn’t empty before European settlers arrived — it was home to the Australian Indigenous population. The problem was that this was not how the law saw it.

Eddie Koiki Mabo

As a Torres Strait Islander who campaigned for Indigenous land rights, Eddie Koiki Mabo’s work led to an important decision by the High Court: It supported the claim of Eddie Mabo and his people that Murray Islanders were the traditional owners of the land on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait.

3 June 2014 is the 22nd anniversary of the High Court’s decision that now serves as a model for future legal matters, and was an important milestone for the Indigenous people’s rights in Australia, especially in Queensland.

The National Film and Sound Archive’s website has a great online resource to help teach children about this important case and what it means.

You can also read Reconciliation Australia’s fact sheet about 3 June.

National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week  is a ‘time for Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort’.

Reconciliation is about building better relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the benefit of all Australians.

To create positive change we need more people talking about the issues and coming up with innovative ideas and actions that make a difference.

Help Reconciliation Australia in their mission for a ‘reconciled, just and equitable Australia’ by teaching your children the importance and meaning of these events. And visit their Resources section for useful learning tools.

(image source)


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