On June 3, 1992, the High Court of Australia mad a historic ruling in a case that became known simply as “Mabo”. Eddi Mabo, a Torres Strait Islander, was one of three men who sued for recognition of the historical ownership of the Mer Islands in the Torres Strait (the stretch of water between the north-eastern tip of the Australian mainland and New Guinea).
The case overturned the Terra Nullis doctrine that had been the fiction that at the time of British colonisation nobody owned the land in Australia. By demonstrating the long and sustained connections between the Meriam people and Mer Islands, the case led to a fundamental change in the recognition of indigenous land rights in Australia.
Tragically, Eddie Mabo died five months before the final ruling.