Google honours Eddie Mabo on his 80th birthday

By Jared Richards 29 June 2016
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Today’s Google Doodle illustration pays respects to the Aboriginal lands rights activist.

Warning: this story contains references to deceased Aboriginal persons.

TODAY, GOOGLE CELEBRATES the life and activism of Aboriginal lands rights activist Edward Koiki Mabo, who would have turned 80.

Eddie, a Meriam man from the Murray Islands in the Torres Straits, was born on 29 June 1936. He went on to become a leading Indigenous activist in a historic 10-year court case that came to be known as the Mabo decision. The case overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius; the belief that, previous to European colonisation, Australia was a “land inhabited by no one”.

Eddie Mabo Google Doodle

Google, the online search engine giant, regularly adds illustrations to its famous logo to mark holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous people, such as this ‘Google Doodle’ of Australian Aboriginal activist Eddie Mabo. (Image: Google)

The case began in 1982 when Mabo and four other Meriam people lodged a Native Title claim in the High Court.  They argued that the Murray Islands belonged to the Meriam people who preceded European settlers. On 3 June 1992, the Court upheld their claim by a vote of six to one, establishing the Meriam people primary possession and use of the Murray Islands.

Eddie died a few months previous to the decision at the age of 55, yet his legacy lives on. After the Mabo decision, the Native Tile Act 1993 established frameworks to recognise native title. Over 500 land-use agreements have been settled since 1993. However, as the Court requires strict documentation of connection to country, cases are difficult to prove and can match the Mabo decision in length.

Read more about Eddie Mabo and the influence of the Mabo decision.