The Mabo v Queensland (No 2) decision, handed down by the High Court of Australia in 1992, recognized the existence of native title in Australian common law for the first time. The case was brought by Eddie Mabo, a Torres Strait Islander man, and a group of other Indigenous Australians from the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait. They claimed that their ancestors had possessed a form of native title to their land, which had been extinguished by the Queensland government’s assertion of sovereignty in the late 19th century.
The court’s decision overturned the previous legal doctrine of terra nullius, which held that Australia was a land belonging to no one prior to the arrival of Europeans, and therefore Indigenous Australians had no rights to their traditional lands. Instead, the court recognized that Indigenous Australians had a form of communal land ownership, known as native title, that had been inherited from their ancestors and passed down through generations.
The decision was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it recognized the rights of Indigenous Australians to their traditional lands, which had previously been denied by the legal system. This had a major impact on the way in which Indigenous Australians were viewed and treated by the government and society more broadly.
Secondly, the decision had a major impact on the development of land rights legislation in Australia. The Native Title Act 1993 was subsequently passed by the Federal Government in response to the Mabo decision, which established a framework for the recognition and protection of native title.
Thirdly, the decision had a far-reaching impact on the way in which the Australian legal system viewed the rights of Indigenous Australians. It marked a significant shift in the way in which the courts and government viewed Indigenous Australians and their relationship to the land.
In terms of figures, the Mabo v Queensland (No 2) decision was heard by the High Court of Australia, which is the highest court in the Australian legal system. The decision was handed down on June 3, 1992, and was unanimous, with all six judges agreeing on the outcome. The case was the first time that the High Court had heard a case involving native title and it was widely considered to be one of the most important legal cases in Australian history