indigenous housing crisis
People & Property

Mabo Day | From the nest in the hills

By PEXA • Mar 2021

Blessed to live in Cairns and work throughout North and Far North Queensland (FNQ), I grew up on a sheep farm in rural NSW in a scenic town called Mudgee, which derives from the Wiradjuri Aboriginal term ‘Moothi’ meaning “nest in the hills”.    


Throughout my life, I have always held an affinity to the land and feel that it’s an integral part of who I am.   

Having worked in the property industry for nearly 20 years, including five years with PEXA, I am well versed in Torrens Title. Of how its invention revolutionised the way interest in land was recorded and registered in Australia and eventually in many other countries across the world.    

During this period I was educated about the historic decision handed down by the High Court of Australia on 3 June 1992 that overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius, or land belonging to no-one, a decision that gave rise to the Native Title Act 1993. 

This naturally leads me to Mabo Day, celebrated each year on 3 June. A day that, commemorates the courageous efforts of Eddie Koiki Mabo and four others that culminated in this historic decision being handed down.  

For me Mabo Day represents the importance of fighting for what you feel is right and is an important element in inspiring others to drive reconciliation – something that is long overdue in Australia. 

I’ve been lucky in my life and career to be surrounded by people who have a sense of connection to our land and understand the significance of Mabo Day. With this in mind, it’s important for me to share their stories and experiences as well.   


Maria Mabo, Granddaughter of Eddie and Bonita Mabo  

“My name is Maria Mabo, I am a proud Meriam woman from the Piadram Tribe and the granddaughter of Eddie and Bonita Mabo. I have always known them as Nornie and Ata (grandfather).  

For our family, Mabo Day is a special day where we can all reflect on, celebrate and be proud of what my grandfather alongside Reverend David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee achieved.    

The Native Title not only means land rights but more importantly recognises our continued connection to land, seas, culture, family and ancestors, which is central to our identity.   

I am extremely proud of the achievements of my grandparents. I hope that they continue to inspire more truth telling conversations that lead to real actions for healing, reconciliation and shared equal and equitable futures for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.”  


Lorelei Billing, Criminal Defence Lawyer, Legal Aid Queensland, Townsville 

“I am a Noonkul and Nughi woman of the Quandamooka nation of North Stradbroke Island and the Moreton Bay region. I am also a descendant of the Mununjali people of Beaudesert and the Bundjalung people of Tweed Heads.   

I was born and raised in Townsville, having completed my Bachelor of Laws at James Cook University, Douglas campus and now work as a criminal defence lawyer in Townsville and the surrounding regions of Palm Island, Ayr, Ingham and Charters Towers. I have always known about the Mabo decision.  

My family knew Eddie Mabo throughout his life, and I grew up hearing the story of how Native Title came to be through Eddie’s own connection with James Cook University when he was working as a groundsman. I cannot recall when I first heard about the decision, but it fills me with pride as an Aboriginal woman and JCU graduate to know that a significant High Court decision originated in my own backyard.   

The Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is a tight community and we recognise Townsville’s own traditional owners, the Wulgurukaba and Bindal people. We know, without the Mabo decision, the Mabo family, Eddie and the legal practitioners’ tireless campaign, we wouldn’t have the recognition we have today. I think we still have a long way to go, but having Mabo day recognised each year, means our community and Australia wide, will never forget where it all started.”   

Thank you to Maria Mabo and Lorelei Billing for sharing your stories and what Mabo Day means to you both.

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