Our Connections with Mabo Day

This year the theme for National Reconciliation Week is Be Brave Make Change. It is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

On Thursday, Reverend Yarrow sat down with our Boarding Captain, Izza, who shared her story of growing up on Mer Island in the Torres Strait. Izza's two grandfathers, David Passi and Sam Passi along with Eddie Koiki Mabo, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee, brought an action against the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth of Australia in the High Court, claiming 'native title' to the Murray Islands. This significant legal case is now known as 'The Mabo Case'.

Not only did The Mabo case acknowledge the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their land, but the court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people. In 1992 this landmark decision gave rise to important native title legislation and the following year rendered terra nullius a legal fiction (land belonging to no one).

Having a population of around 450 people on Mer Island, Izza's family and the other plaintiffs' families were well recognised. Unfortunately for Izza, this also meant that there was no getting up to mischief as a young girl.

Today, the country acknowledges Mabo Day, but it is much more for Izza and her family. They celebrate the survival of their culture, the people and the land. "I believe that our culture just would not have survived if we didn't have the rights to our own lands, so for us, this is more than just a case", said Izza. 

We asked Izza, as a young Torres Strait Islander woman, what does the outcome of this case mean to her? "It gives me hope. Hope that we can build a better future together. Eddie Mabo was a gardener, and he went into court. He didn't graduate from university; he didn't have a degree. My grandfathers were a Primary School teacher and a Reverend. Regardless of who you are, you still have the power to do what is right, stand up and have a voice in what you believe in".

To learn more about Mabo Day, the Native Title and Izza's grandfathers' click here.