Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland: a brief human rights history

Introduction

The beach at Mer looking towards the islands of Waier and Dauar, that were the subject of the Mabo native title claim.The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples identifies the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples as: self-determination, participation in decision-making, respect for and protection of culture, and equality and non-discrimination. Since European colonisation, the rights available to Torres Strait Islander people have fallen well short of those outlined in the Declaration.

This publication gives a brief outline of historical and more recent events that have had an impact on the human rights of Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland.

It is provided to:

  • inform the reader about the history of Torres Strait Islander people;
  • acknowledge the colonial and post-colonial history, and that certain events took place; and
  • acknowledge breaches of human rights experienced by Torres Strait Islander people.

On the beach of Mer

The image on this page shows the beach at Mer looking towards Waier and Dauar.

In 1992, after a ten-year court battle by Eddie Mabo and other traditional land owners of the Murray Islands, the High Court of Australia delivered one of the most significant legal decisions in Australia's history.

In the Mabo decision, the High Court recognised the land rights of the Meriam people, traditional owners of the Murray Islands (which includes the islands of Mer, Dauer, and Waier) in the Torres Strait.

The High Court ruled that the lands of this continent were not terra nullius or land belonging to no-one when European settlement occurred, and that the Meriam people were entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of (most of) the lands of the Murray Islands.


Contents list: Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland

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Appendixes

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