Mabo V Queensland (No.2) Case Brief (Australian Indigenous Law)

Mabo V Queensland (No.2) Case Brief (Australian Indigenous Law)

Case Citation
Mabo v Queensland (No 2) [1992] HCA 23; (1992) 175 CLR 1

Facts of the Case:

The Mabo case began when the plaintiffs, the Merriam people (of the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait) initiated proceedings in the High Court in 1982, in retort to the Queensland Amendment Act 1982, which established a system of making land grants on trust for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The Murray Islanders refused to accept the proposal and thus began their action. The case has been described as a sort of ‘test case’ to discover the legal rights of the Merriam people to land on the islands of Mer (Murray Island), Dauar and Waier in the Torres Strait, which were annexed to the state of Queensland in 1879. Before colonization, the Merriam people had lived on the islands in a subsistence economy based on farming and fishing.
The Queensland Government endeavored to cease the proceedings in 1985 by enacting The Queensland Coast Islands Declaratory Act 1985, which declared that on annexation of the islands in 1879, title to the islands was vested in the state of Queensland "freed from all other rights, interests and claims whatsoever". The High Court in Mabo v Queensland (No 1) (1988) held that such legislation was contrary to The Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The plaintiffs sought legal recognition of the Merriam people as "as owners; as possessors; as occupiers; or as persons entitled to use and enjoy the said islands".
The Plaintiffs, The Merriam people disputed that they had the right to a ‘possessory title’ if only for the reason of long possession. The Defendants, the Queensland government, took the position that the territory of a settled colony became part of the Crown's dominions. The thus argued that the law of England became the law of the colony and, thus the Crown acquired the "absolute beneficial ownership" of all land in the territory
Legal Issues

The legal issues in Mabo largely revolved around the concepts of terra nullius...

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