Mabo Decision

In 1992 the Australian High Court made a landmark decision referred to as ‘The Mabo Decision’. This recognised native title and officially debunked the idea of Terra Nullius, which was widely accepted prior to this decision.

The Mabo Decision created the opportunity for recognition of traditional interests in the land, such as the right to hold traditional ceremonies, hunting and gathering, and to ability to have a say on the development of lands. 

In particular, two important legislations were established following the Mabo Decision: 

  • Native Title legislation which acknowledged Aboriginal peoples’ connection and rights to land and water.
  • Land Rights legislation which addressed Aboriginal compensation for past dispossession, dislocation and removal of land.

Land ownership continues to be a divisive issue, however there is no question that the Mabo Decision in 1992 was the catalyst for the changing face of Indigenous Land Rights. 



Aboriginal land rights – Creative Spirits, retrieved from