Eddie Mabo: Celebrations held to mark 25th anniversary of High Court ruling ( Torres Strait Islands )
Eddie Mabo’s widow has tearfully recalled the “proud as punch” moment she learned her late husband’s legal challenge to formally recognise the land rights of Indigenous people was successful.
It has been 25 years since June 3, 1992, when the Hight Court handed down its landmark ruling.
Mr Mabo had been fighting for his right to his land for 10 years, but the ruling, which ended the doctrine of Terra Nullius, was handed down five months after he passed away.
On Saturday, celebrations were held around Queensland to mark the anniversary.
Mr Mabo’s widow Bonita Mabo said she still remembered the struggle to get her family to Canberra to hear the court’s decision.
“There was about six of us in the car and we travelled from Cairns … we had $150 all together,” she said.
“We got to that side of Sydney, pulled up on the side of the road and we got a call from [my daughter] to say ‘Dad won the decision, won the case’.
“We just jumped out and hugged each other … we were as proud as punch.”
Mrs Mabo said the trip was a tough one.
“It was really disappointing organisations here in Townsville never even came up with the sense to give us a hand,” she said.
“We got that $150 bill together and never thought about anything except the car.”
‘All of Australia now knows your name’
Mr Mabo’s daughter, Gail Mabo, was in a car with her son and “cried with joy” when she heard the news on the radio in 1992.
“But one of the things is … I was in disbelief because I wanted my dad to be around to actually reap the benefits of what he’d done,” she told the ABC.
“But because he wasn’t there, I cried and I looked to the heavens and I said … ‘Dad, you did it. You won. And, yes, all of Australia now knows your name’.”
Celebrations and parades will be held across Queensland today to mark the Mabo anniversary, and reflect on the land rights challenges still facing Indigenous people.
In Townsville, the Mabos were joined by artists, including John Butler, for a concert as part of the city’s annual Mabo Festival.
“Townsville needs to celebrate this, they need to celebrate the local hero, who actually lived in this town,” Gail Mabo said.
Celebrations were also held on Mer, or Murray Island, the Torres Strait island where Mr Mabo was born.
While progress for Indigenous Australians remains slow, Gail Mabo believes change is coming.
“That thing of recognising and understanding Indigenous plights is coming,” she said.
“And it’s through those — through those smaller, baby steps, we can actually make a change.”