June 2024

Conversation Starter Series #1

 3 June Mabo Day helps us reconcile our history

by Mark Yettica-Paulson (Birrah, Gamilaroi and Bundjalung Peoples)

The 3rd of June provides a powerful element to our national narrative as it reminds us of our shared history and shared origin story as a nation. In 1992 the High Court of Australia determined that using terra nullius as basis for claiming this land we now know as “Australia” was in fact a “legal fiction”. Terra nullius was a basis for claiming lands several hundred years ago and was lurking around the legal foundations of Australia like a crocodile in knee-deep water. Over the years in Australia it became more accepted as part of the national narrative as a silent legal partner to our more popular mythology that there was no land ownership system before the British and Australian systems. 

For more information see: Challenging Terra Nullius

On Monday 3rd of June we invite you to pause and remember the extraordinary life of Eddie Koiki Mabo. As a quintessential Aussie battler he took on the State of Queensland and then the High Court to fight for the rights and recognition of his homeland. In doing so he paid the ultimate price, dying before the final High Court determination, but set the record straight for all Australians about our origin story.

Since 1992 we have been striving to work through the meaning and impacts of that decision on our national narrative. Some Australians were shocked and have resisted the change implications. Others have embraced the notion that we need to develop new legal arrangements between Australia and First Nations.

Coming to terms with our origin story and its implications on identity and national narrative require careful consideration and collaboration. We have seen collaborations across communities develop the skill of working with power, with competing narratives and with the reality that our origin stories continue to show up here and now until we find ways to collectively heal and transform. At the same time, this is still not the norm and many collaborations do not truly grapple with the core work of our nation.

It is our hope that together we will see more development at our national levels, for more of this.

Questions you can discuss:

  • How did we set up this Country?
  • What do we do now?

Resources to share:

Challenging Terra Nullius

The Mabo Case – AIATSIS


Mabo – Life of an Island Man

Mabo – Blakfella Films

From now until NAIDOC Week 2024 we are offering a series of conversation starters through a Collaboration Practice Arena. We look forward to continuing this conversation and important transformative work together with you.

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