Mabo Decision – 30th Anniversary

Posted: June 3rd, 2022

Today we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision, a turning point for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ traditional rights to ownership of their land, giving rise to important legislation with the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

Eddie “Koiki” Mabo led the historic case that spanned over 10 years with over 4000 pages of evidence generated, conclusively proving that the eight clans of Mer Island had occupied the land for thousands of years.

Through his tireless campaigning, Mabo reshaped the history and laws of Australia by seeking recognition for all native title to exist amongst all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Eddie “Koiki” Mabo did not live to see the outcome of the ruling, sadly passing away at 55 from cancer five months prior to this landmark ruling.

The effects of the Mabo decision have not only changed understandings of colonisation but is also the reason why YMAC exists today; to represent Aboriginal people of the Pilbara, Midwest, Murchison, and Gascoyne regions of WA to be recognised as the Traditional Owners of their Country in achieving recognition for themselves.

Commemorating the milestone is far more than celebrating a big number for YMAC Chairperson from the Yamatji Region, Mr Peter Windie, who said “A lot has happened in the 30 years since the decision was handed down, but the standout for me is that this very important part of history was the inspiration for a lot of Aboriginal people right across the country. Many more people became just as determined in their own journey to fight for fairness and equality and of course their native title rights. This decision paved the way for a lot of our people because it meant that anything is possible.”

Since gaining recognition as a native title representative body in December 1994, YMAC is very proud to have supported groups across both of our regions to achieve 32 native title determinations. Each group has its own distinct culture and identity and are at a different stage in their native title journey.

YMAC strives not only to support native title recognition, but also to ensure that Native Title holders can best protect their rights, manage Country the way they want to, and create new opportunities for their people.

According to the latest figures from the National Native Title Tribunal, there have been 554 native title determinations since the historical case. These statistics and further details are available here.