Australian Native Title

Senior Library Books


Resource Key

When accessing content use the numbers below to guide you:


brief, basic information laid out in an easy-to-read format. May use informal language. (Includes most news articles)


provides additional background information and further reading. Introduces some subject-specific language.


lengthy, detailed information. Frequently uses technical/subject-specific language. (Includes most analytical articles)


Welcome to the Australian Native Title research guide created for Year 10 Humanities and Social Sciences students.

The legal system brought from Britain when Australia was colonised did not recognise Aboriginal laws and community structures, including laws relating to land. Indigenous people became subject to colonial laws, and Australian general law. All of Australia was treated as terra nullius, meaning 'nobody's land', and able to be claimed by the Crown and acquired by the colonisers. In 1992 Aboriginal title to land was finally recognised at common law, in the landmark case of Mabo v Queensland (No 2) ((1992) 175 CLR 1). The High Court rejected the notion of terra nullius and  recognised a preexisting indigenous system of law - native title ie: Australian law recognised that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have rights and interests in land or waters that come from their traditional laws and customs. (University of Melbourne, Indigenous Legal Research, 2018).


480: Mabo - Terra Nullius

Message Stick. (2012). 480:Mabo Pt 1 Terra Nullius. [ABC]. Melbourne

This special series celebrates the 20th anniversary in the High Court's decision of the MABO case. It looks back over the history of the land rights and at Eddie Mabo and his role in the case.


Part 1- In 1788 Britain legally claimed Australia to be terra nullius - a law whereby Indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land. The move dispossessed hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of their land, culture and spiritual connections. It also sparked a battle that would continue through generations and shape what Australia is today.


Part 2 - Through the 60s and 70s the Land Rights movement erupted onto the streets across the nation. The Gurindji people walked off Vesty's station and the Aboriginal people of Wreck Bay rejected the government's offer of a lease.


Part 3 - Eddie Koiki Mabo was more than just a court case. Through the eyes of his daughter we take a personal look into the man who was a passionate family man and who was consumed with fighting for a tiny island in the Torres Strait.


Part 4 - Eddie Koiki Mabo won his way into history when the highest court in the country ruled in his favour and disproved the law of Terra Nullius.


Part 5 - Mabo's legacy resulted in the Native Title Act of Australia of 1993 - an important step forward for the country in land use, access and ownership

Prime Minister Speeches

Key Terms

The Native Title Journey

Meaning of Land to Aboriginal People

Infographic Files

Login to LibApps