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The Conversation: 30 years since Mabo

By Reading and Writing | 4 July 2022

The Conversation: 30 years since Mabo

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark decision which recognised in Australian law for the first time the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their lands. The Mabo Case was successful in overturning the myth that at the time of colonisation Australia was ‘terra nullius’ or land belonging to no one.

Hear from Indigenous academic lawyer and researcher Eddie Synot; one of Australia’s most recognised historians Professor Henry Reynolds, lawyer and granddaughter of Koiki Mabo Hannah Duncan,  and the son of the only surviving plaintiff Charles Passi as they discuss what changed, what didn’t and what still needs to be done.

This free event was livestreamed and both onsite and online audience members were invited to submit questions to the expert panel. 


Eddie Synot is a Wamba Wamba First Nations person who writes about Indigenous experience at the intersections of law, culture and society, exploring how these different fields impact upon and affect different representations of Indigenous peoples. He is an Indigenous academic lawyer and researcher with the Griffith Law School and the Indigenous Law Centre UNSW. Eddie has worked with the Uluru Dialogue and the ILC UNSW since 2018. 

Professor Henry Reynolds is one of Australia’s most recognised historians. He was educated at Hobart High School and the University of Tasmania. In 1965, he accepted a lectureship at James Cook University in Townsville, which sparked an interest in the history of relations between settlers and Aboriginal people. In 2000, he took up a professorial fellowship at the University of Tasmania. His pioneering work has changed the way we see the intertwining of black and white history in Australia. His books include The Other Side of the Frontier (reissue); What’s Wrong with Anzac? (as co-author); Forgotten WarUnnecessary WarsThis Whispering in Our Hearts Revisited; and most recently Truth-Telling: History, Sovereignty and the Uluru Statement.

Hannah Duncan is a proud Indigenous and South Sea Islander woman. Her heritage is from Mer and she has family ties to Palm Island. She is a granddaughter of Dr Bonita Mabo and Eddie Mabo. Their legacy has taught her the impact that an individual Indigenous person can make on a nation. Hannah is a practising lawyer. She has worked in various legal and policy roles across government. She is currently working at the Queensland Human Rights Commission and Caxton Legal.

Charles Passi is the eldest son of Dave and Lena Passi (both deceased) and was born into the traditional responsibility of preservation and representation of the cultural traditions in both Mer and Erub islands in the eastern Torres Strait. He attributes the wisdom in his interpretations coming from his deep cultural connections as a proud Meriam and he believes that sharing this culture of communal responsibility and shared respect will help heal the dysfunctions in our world as the earthly philosophies of this ancient culture are based on ensuring positive relationships between ourselves and all within our environment.  As a former member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory group to the Domestic and Family Violence Implementation Council (Qld), and former Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, Charles embraces the challenge to influence and participate in leading Aboriginal Affairs in this country to new and profound heights of positive connection and representation.   “Time now for a New Vision, a New Hope and a New Commitment” – Lena Passi, 1992.

Presented by State Library of Queensland and The Conversation, the world's leading free, fact-based news source written by academics and edited by journalists.

The discussion is linked to Legacy: Reflections on Mabo exhibition  This exhibition celebrates the man behind the game-changing Native Title Act, Eddie Koiki Mabo, and the ongoing influence and impact he has had on Australian society and culture. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the speaker are their own and the promotion of products/services is not endorsed by State Library.


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