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Papers of Edward Koiki Mabo, 1943-1992 (bulk 1972-1992) [manuscript]
Bib ID 612970
Format ManuscriptManuscript
Mabo, Edward, 1936-1992
Online Versions
Related Online
Access Conditions Part available for research; part NOT available for research. Not for loan. 
Description [1943-1992] 
5.40 m. (28 boxes) + 2 fol. boxes + 1 folio. 

The papers in MS 8822 have been arranged into the following series: 1. Diaries, 1976, 1985-1992. 2. Employment and personal, 1943, 1959-1992. 3. Business ventures, 1968-1991. 4. Black Community School, Townsville, 1973-1984. 5. Yumba Meta Housing Association, 1973-1982. 6. National Aboriginal Education Committee, 1980-1987. 7. Diploma of Teaching Course, Townsville College of Advanced Education/James Cook University, 1981-1984. 8. Land claim, 1982-1992. 9. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1978-1989. 10. ABIS Community Co-operative Society Limited, 1985-1987. 11. Murray Island Community Council, 1985-1991. 12. Moomba Festival, 1986-1987. 13. 5th Festival of Pacific Arts, Townsville, 1986-1988. 14. Magani Malu Kes/Torres Strait independence movement, 1980-1991. 15. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, 1989-1990. 16. Other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander related activities, 1981-1991. 17. Aboriginal legal aid services, 1974-1987. 18. Printed material, 1978-1989 (28 boxes, 2 fol. boxes, 1 folio).


Edward Koiki Mabo was a Torres Strait Islander human rights and land rights activist. He worked as director of the Townsville Black Community School, 1973-1983. Mabo dedicated his life to overturning the decision of Lieutenant James Cook to take possession of the east coast of Australia in the name of King George III. Originally working on railways and sugar plantations, Mabo gained an education and became an activist for black rights after he realised that his ancestral land, despite his traditional ties, belonged to the Crown.

Rejecting the direct action of the land rights movement, Mabo targeted the legal justification for the land appropriation. In 1982, he and four other Murray, or Mer, Islanders began court action to gain legal title to their family land. Principal plaintiff in the landmark High Court native title case, "Mabo and Others versus State of Queensland and the Commonwealth, 1982-92". It is Mabo's name that has been given to the subsequent decision of the High Court of Australia on 3 June 1992, five months after he died, that reversed the principle of Terra Nullius and resulted in the recognition of native title.


Manuscript reference no.: MS 8822.

These papers were selected in 2001 for inclusion in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

Also available on microfilm at the National Library of Australia Main Reading Room – Newspapers and Family History at mfm G 27539-27549.

Selected items(s) also available online

Related Material Cassette tapes of oral history interviews with Mabo conducted by Professor Noel Loos and others were included in the purchase of the Mabo papers. These tapes have been transferred to the National Library of Australia Oral History collection ORAL TRC 3504. 
Cited In

Guide to collections of manuscripts relating to Australia, E948.

Subjects Mabo, Edward, 1936-1992 -- Archives.  |  Australia. High Court. Mabo and others v. State of Queensland.  |  Australia. Native Title Act 1993.  |  Aboriginal Australians -- Archives.  |  Torres Strait Islanders -- Archives.  |  Aboriginal Australians -- Land tenure.  |  Aboriginal Australians -- Legal status, laws, etc.  |  Torres Strait Islanders -- Queensland -- Land tenure.  |  Native title (Australia)  |  Land tenure -- Australia.  |  Australia -- Race relations.
Time Coverage 1943-1992 
Occupation Landowners.  |  Human rights workers.
Other authors/contributors Australia. High Court
Terms of Use Copying of Edward Koiki Mabo's copyright material NOT permitted for research purposes. 
Exhibited Selected items exhibited: "Treasures Gallery", National Library of Australia, 16 September 2013 - 2 February 2014.  Exhibited: "Treasures Gallery", National Library of Australia, 3 December 2012 - 3 May 2013.  Selected items exhibited in: "Treasures Gallery", National Library of Australia, 12 June 2012 - 23 September 2012.  Exhibited: "Treasures Gallery", National Library of Australia, 7 October 2011 - 15 December 2012.  Selected items exhibited: Treasures Gallery, National Library of Australia, 17A April, 2017 

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Members of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori communities are advised that this catalogue contains names and images of deceased people. All users of the catalogue should also be aware that certain words, terms or descriptions may be culturally sensitive and may be considered inappropriate today, but may have reflected the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written.