These papers document some of the native land title claim launched in 1982 in the High Court by Eddie Mabo, Celuia Mapo Salee, Sam Passi, David Passi, and James Rice (the Plaintiffs) against the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth of Australia (the Defendants), commonly named "Mabo and Ors v Queensland (No. 2)".
The Claim: The plaintiffs claimed that they had lived in permanently settled communities on the islands maintaining a valid, traditional connection with the land. They acknowledged that sovereignty was asserted by the British Crown upon annexation, but they argued that their native rights to traditional lands had not been extinguished by the Crown's granting of land to others. On behalf of the Meriam people, through the Statement of Claim issued on 20 May 1982, the plaintiffs maintained that compensation was owed to them in relation to dealings with the claimed land.
In June 1985, the plaintiffs filed a demurrer contesting the validity of the "Queensland Coast Islands Act 1985" which Queensland relied on as part of its defence (Writ 1585/1985), commonly named "Mabo and Another v The State of Queensland and Another (No.1)". Consequently, the proceedings of the Supreme Court (No.2), were temporarily suspended and in December 1988, the High Court delivered its judgment regarding the demurrer proceedings, deciding in the plaintiffs' favour and declaring the Act contrary to the Federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
On 3 June 1992 a legal and historical precedent was set when the High Court delivered its ruling in the plaintiffs' favour. The decision recognised that Aboriginal native title had existed prior to European settlement and consequently rejected the legal doctrine of terra nullius (a land 'practically unoccupied'; at the point of Britain's proclaimed sovereignty).
Queensland as the defendant, had produced a wide array of case material i.e. historical, anthropological, administrative and departmental sources, which were incorporated into the pleadings. Evidence submitted by the Crown consisted of 'original evidence' (oral and documentary), 'opinion evidence' and 'admissibility of hearsay evidence'. Islander and non-Islander witnesses were called by both parties. Islanders gave oral evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs, although other witnesses such as the Anthropologist, Dr Jeremy Beckett also provided evidence. The Crown engaged, on behalf of the Defence, an historian, an anthropologist, a retired senior officer of a Queensland department and an ethnohistorian. Among those seconded by the Crown, Ruth Kerr and Patrick Killoran's papers became evidence/court exhibits which are included in this series.
Documentary evidence was submitted for the case in the form of exhibits and includes: Historical works re initial contact on the Islands and activities thereafter; Professor A.C. Haddon's anthropological expedition to Murray Island in the 1890s; various papers/official Government documents and annotated photocopied articles recording past dealings with land portions on the Islands (eg. order in councils, law reports, court cases, proclamations, correspondence, acts and regulations); analysis of Murray Island Court decisions); plaintiffs' documents, and annexures (genealogy tables, maps, drawings, diagrams, plans, photographs of the Murray Islands and the portions claimed).
This series contains: Personal statements; Statement of facts (plaintiffs' and defendant's, and the Crown's preferred Statement of Facts); P J Killoran's papers; affidavits; examinations of exhibits and plaintiffs' statement of facts; reports; responses to the plaintiffs' statement of facts; court transcripts; submissions (also specific claims, tables, chains of title, and life/personal histories); plaintiffs' response to the defendant's submission; categories of evidence; court orders; statement of claim; bylaws of Island Councils, etc.
-There are duplicate or triplicate copies of some items within this series. Many papers are annotated by various Crown Counsels (however,the particular author of the annotations is not always stated/clear).
- IMPORTANT: Some files such as genealogies, personal histories, Murray Island Court records, etc. may contain ADOPTION or sexual offences information.