National Library of Australia

The Mabo Papers

Edward Koiki Mabo (1936–1992)Original hand-drawn maps and diagrams of various portions of land, boundary markers etc. 1981–1992

ink and coloured felt-tip pen on paper; each 32.5 x 20.4cm

Manuscript Collection, MS 9518

National Library of Australia
Original hand-drawn maps and diagrams of various portions of land, boundary markers etc. 1981–1992

click to enlarge this imageView in the owner's online catalogue

Edward (Eddie) Koiki Mabo (1936–1992) was dedicated to overturning Lieutenant James Cook’s decision 200 years earlier to ignore Lord Morton’s advice and take possession of the east coast of Australia.

Mabo’s name was given to the landmark decision by the High Court of Australia that reversed the principle of terra nullius and resulted in the recognition of native title.

Ten years earlier, Mabo and four other Murray, or Mer, Islanders began court action to gain legal title to their family land. Following intense legal resistance from the Queensland Government, it went to the High Court in 1991 which, on 3 June 1992, found in favour of Mabo and his fellow litigants. Tragically, Eddie Mabo had died five months earlier.

Mabo’s personal papers are extensive. Along with legal documents of the land claim case, they contain a mass of material, including job applications, song lyrics, speech notes, records of Mabo’s work as an Indigenous community leader and diaries.

In 2001, the Mabo Papers were placed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register, in recognition of their unique place in history and the acknowledgement of Indigenous land rights.