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Arone Meeks, ‘Mabo 25 & Big Wet Community’ (detail), 2018



Reflections on Mabo

19 March - 9 October 2022
Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery, level 4

Legacy: Reflections on Mabo 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. 

Curated by Gail Mabo, Dr Jonathan McBurnie and Kellie Williams, this travelling exhibition brings together 25 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists in the spirit of reconciliation, 30 years after this historic achievement. Each artist has responded to an aspect of Mabo they were drawn to, whether it was his life, politics, activism or legacy. The artworks come together in surprising ways, with reverence, compassion, anger, sadness and respect, celebrating a man who was both a rebel and a dreamer.


Legacy: Reflections on Mabo features artwork by: Sonja Carmichael and Elisa Jane Carmichael, Toby Cedar, Dian Darmansjah, Katina Davidson, Blak Douglas and Adam Geczy, Hayley Megan French, Marion Gaemers, Patricia Hoffie, David Jones, Ian Kaddy, Talitha Kennedy, Jo Lankester, Veronica Lulu and Kim Mahood, Ronald McBurnie, Arone Meeks, Jim Paterson, Tommy Pau, Obery Sambo, Anneke Silver, Ken Thaiday Snr, and Judy Watson.


Artist panel discussion on Legacy: Reflections on Mabo.

In this discussion learn about the curatorial directions of Legacy: Reflections on Mabo exhibition from Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts director, Kate O'Hara. The panel includes reflections from exhibition co-curator and daughter of Koiki Mabo, Gail Mabo and Brisbane contributing artists Judy Watson and Katina Davidson.

Filmed onsite at State Library of Queensland on 24 August 2022.

State Library of Queensland invited members of the Torres Strait Islander community to acknowledge the remarkable life, politics, activism, and legacy of Eddie “Koiki” Mabo and celebrate the Legacy: Reflections on Mabo exhibition.

Official Event Program included; Welcome to Country by Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dance Company/Gerib Sik Torres Strait Islanders Dance Troupe/Daniel Dow – Master of Ceremony/Vicki McDonald AM FALIA, State Librarian & CEO/The Honourable Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Communities and Housing, Minister for Digital Economy and Minister for the Arts/Gail Mabo

Filmed onsite at State Library of Queensland on 28 May 2022

Circles of Life and Light, 2019, Elisa Jane Carmichael and Sonja Carmichael.


Legacy: Reflections on Mabo education kit

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From the blog

The delegation of Court Officials arrives on Mer Island.
Mabo vs State of Queensland
2018 marked the 26th anniversary since the High Court of Australia handed down its decision in the land rights case ‘Mabo versus the State of Queensland’. Announced on 3 June 1992, generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people celebrate Mabo Day following a 10-year struggle for recognition. Justice Martin Moynihan and a team of Counsel travelled to Mer Island to conduct Supreme Court sittings and to take down testimony from witnesses to prove or disprove the Murray Islander Mabo case of native title in May 1989. This blog showcases images taken of these events that took place. Anne Scheu - Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland
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Bob Miles and Eddie Mabo
Miles and Mabo: teacher and master
Bob Miles was teacher and mentor to a young Eddie Mabo who became a master of two cultures and who paved the way for recognition of the traditional rights of the Meriam People to their islands in the eastern Torres Strait in 1992, and from which followed the Native Title Act, 1993.
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25th anniversary of the Mabo decision
The date 3 June 1992 is forever remembered as a victory for Indigenous land rights with the High Court of Australia’s landmark decision in the case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) – more commonly known as simply Mabo. Mabo marked the first formal recognition of Indigenous land rights in Australia. The High Court overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius (‘land belonging to nothing, no one’) which implied that no-one held ownership of the land until the arrival of European settlers. Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of Queensland Front cover of OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of QueenslandOne of the main agitators for Indigenous land rights was Torres Strait Islander and land rights activist Eddie Koiki Mabo. In 1982 Eddie Mabo and four other Meriam people from Mer in the Torres Strait began legal action in the High Court of Australia. Sadly Eddie Mabo died five months before the High Court’s decision after 10 years of struggle.State Library of Queensland holds several items relating to the Mabo decision. OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books - these books contain newspaper clippings relating to the Mabo case between November 1990 and October 1994 29122 Album of Photographs Relating to the Mabo Case on Mer Island 1989 - a photographic account of the proceedings of the Mabo case on Mer (Murray Island) 6837 Justice Moynihan - Determination re Mabo Case Papers 27 Feb 1986 - three bound volumes regarding the determination of a reference from the High Court of Australia of the factual issues raised in the action by Eddie Mabo and others, prepared by Justice Moynihan. Taken from OM95-26 Mabo Cutting Books 1990-1994 . State Library of QueenslandMabo is celebrated each year as part of National Reconciliation Week.
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Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts M&G QLDVisions of AustraliaVisual arts and craft strategyQueensland GovernmentAustralia Council for the ArtsTim Fairfax Family Foundation

Legacy: Reflections on Mabo received funding through the Queensland Government’s Queensland Art Showcase Program’s Arts Ignite stream to support the development and presentation of the exhibition at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts in 2019. 

Legacy: Reflections on Mabo is a travelling exhibition presented by Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts and toured by Museums & Galleries Queensland. It has been generously assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia Program; the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments; and is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

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