The year 2017 marked the twenty- fifth anniversary of the High Court’s 1992 decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (Mabo), which recognised the existence of Indigenous people’s traditional ‘native title’ rights over the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait. This finding, and the passage through parliament of the Keating government’s Native Title Act the following year, dramatically changed the legal position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian society. Since then, there have been 338 determinations that native title exists in different parts of Australia, delivering significant benefits to a substantial proportion of claimant groups.
However, native title remains controversial among Indigenous people. In the words of the Kokatha Aboriginal woman Sue Coleman Haseldine, or ‘Aunty Sue’, the subject of Eve Vincent’s Against Native Title: Conflict and creativity in outback Australia: ‘Native title throughout the years has been a really shocking experience … first we had to choose one tribe … [and then] we were demanded to prove to the government our continual existence to the land for the past 200 years.’