Eddie Mabo was an Indigenous Australian, originating from the Torres Strait Islands, that has had a major impact on Australia’s cultural legacy when it comes to recognition of Indigenous rights. He was best known for his work in campaigning for the removal of the legal definition of ‘terra nullius’ (translating to ‘nobody’s land’) which governed the relationship of Australian land and title.
Ever since European colonisation of Australia, common law had failed to recognise any legal claims that Indigenous people had to the land prior to foreign settlement. Seen as a status quo that promoted racism and disenfranchised Indigenous Australians, Eddie Mabo was a key figure in putting a test case to the High Court of Australian in order to have the definition of ‘terra nullius’ revoked.
However, Eddie Mabo died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 55. His death martyred him for his causes and his goal was achieved 5 months later in a historic decision by the High Court of Australia. His gravesite was notoriously vandalised with racial slurs and images of swastikas (the symbol of the German Nazis in World War 2).
Mabo was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal after his death and he has been memorialised in a variety of ways. He is considered one of the original leaders of the Indigenous Rights movement in modern Australia.
Eddie Mabo is one of many Indigenous Australians who has left a profound mark on the Australian cultural landscape. His is still cited as an inspiration for Indigenous Rights Activists to this day and has been the basis of many documentaries and dramatizations.
Overall, Eddie Mabo is a powerful presence in Australian culture that needs to be remembered by all. He was a humble and dedicated man who fought for his people.