The scene opens on the Murray Islands beach, Eddie is remembering his father's teachings on caring for his family: the fish, the land, the sea and the Murray Islander's cultural heritage. That night Eddie performs a traditional dance, signifying his journey towards adulthood, and steals a glance at a young girl. The next day, Eddie finds himself in trouble with the elders and is sent to the mainland. The use of Murray Islander music, Meriam language and customary traditions ground a sense of pla
Eddie 'Koiki' Mabo meets with Paddy Killoran, who suggests he work for free on his garbage truck instead of leaving the island. Eddie ' Koiki' refuses, saying he won't labour for free. Paddy dismisses Eddie's sense of worth and determination, reminding him that under the Aboriginal Protection Act (1939) it's his role to protect him from himself. Eddie refuses again, saying he is not a slave. Benny, Eddie's father, is worried for his son.
Eddie makes it to Western Australia and begins working on the railway. In a letter, Eddie tells his parents about his new life. Eddie attends an all-white union meeting; in an attempt to ensure other Indigenous and Islander workers get a fair go. That afternoon, Eddie join his white colleagues for an after work drink but is told to "go out the back".
Eddie 'Koiki' attends the social event in town, looking for Bonita 'Netta'. Eddie introduces himself as Koiki and his "white-fella" name as Eddie. Eddie learns that Bonita doesn’t like drink or pubs and he pretends to agree. As he turns to leave, he drops a bottle of alcohol and is exposed for lying. Later, the cops pull him up and search him for nothing. Displace and confused, Koiki performs a customary song on the railway line as he walks home. The next day writes to Bonita, apologising for h
As Koiki 'Eddie' sits reading a book, his railroad friend teases him about job prospects and tosses him a package. Inside Eddie finds two gifts from his father and home. The next day he also receives a response from Bonita and their romance beings to grow. The news saddens Koiki's parents, who fear losing him forever. Koiki and Bonita marry.
Bonita and Koiki's son accidentally ingests some kerosene, and they must take him to the town hospital. After their son is released, they must find somewhere to sleep for the night and wait for the morning train, but all the hotels refuse to let the young family hire a room. After work the next day, Eddie takes a small stand against the endemic racism First Nation people face.
Bonita and Koiki's son accidentally ingests some kerosene and they must take him to the town hospital. After their son is released, the young family must find somewhere to sleep for the night, awaiting the morning train. All the hotels refuse to let the young indigenous family hire a room. After work the next day, Eddie takes a small stand against the endemic racism Indigenous people face.
Koiki 'Eddie' arrives home announcing he has quit the railroad. Bonita reminds him of his responsibility to his family and the difficulties of being an outspoken Indigenous person. Eddie reminds her of the injustices she faces every day and the satisfaction of resisting the status quo. Archival footage shows the beginning of the resistance, the government's response and instances segregation. Koiki 'Eddie' Mabo becomes a person of interest. Later, a university professor sees Eddie in the librar
The Mabo family head north to Murray Island, but discover their travel request refused, denying father and son the traditional rite of passage before death. Back home, Eddie explains the injustice to Henry and Noel but is shocked to learn that the government claims ownership over Indigenous land. Eddie discusses the situation with Bonita and thinks of his father. While presenting a lecture, Eddie tells a petulant student that the staking of a Union Jack cannot undo 16 generations of cultural k
Eddie attends a meeting on land rights. Together with family, heritage, cultural knowledge and the Cairn's Aboriginal Legal Service, Eddie sets out the fight the government and the legal fiction of terra nullius. In an attempt to thwart the Mabo case, premier Bjelke-Petersen passed the Queensland Coast Islands Declaratory Act 1985.
Eddie seeks financial aid to support his family while running the case against the Queensland government. Back home, the whole family watch a news segment about the case, the Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, Bob Katter, appears speaking in opposition to the Mabo v Queensland legal action.
The Supreme Court of Queensland holds a historic sitting on Murray Island. Koiki 'Eddie' is refused his election to Island Council. Later he gets into a fight with another local over the complex issues of ownership. Eddie and QC Bryan Keon-Cohen prepare for a day in court. Meanwhile, Paddy Killoran intimidates Eddie's relative Georgie. In court, the Mabo team learn that brothers Sam and David Passi have withdrawn from the case.
During trial, the defence objects to the argument that Meriam heritage runs deeper than British colonisation and Crown Land. The case begins to flounder. Speaking with senior counsel Ron Castan, they discuss Justice Moynihan's suggestion of a test case in the High Court to challenges the Declaratory Act 1985 and determines the legal rights of the Meriam people (Murray Islanders). Ron agrees they take Justice Moynihan's advice. At home Koiki 'Eddie' learns that Bonita has been receiving threats.
In Court the defence cross-examines Eddie 'Koiki' and his paternal line as a Mabo man, citing evidence from the Aboriginal identity card prepared by the Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs. Outside the courtroom, Eddie sees Paddy Killoran who tries to diminish Eddie's fight by suggesting his father would be ashamed. Back in court, Eddie faces intense questioning designed to invalidate his heritage and discredit his cause.
On the bus, Eddie has a flashback to leaving Murray Island. At home, he becomes overwhelmed by the stress of the case and takes it out on Bonita. Bonita takes the family to a friend's house. Realising his actions were inexcusable, Eddie brings them home and spends the night fishing, proving he can care for his family the old way. The reoccurring music and motif of care and family return Eddie to his father's teachings, and he realises there is a long way to go.
Returning to court Eddie learns that David Passi has re-joined the case. During proceedings, David Passi creates a link between the Mer Islands, himself and Eddie Mabo. The victory is short-lived when Paddy Killoran takes the stand and claims the Islander communities have assimilated with Queensland land laws. The judge rules against Mabo's land claims. Eddie discusses the case with Bryan Keon-Cohen. Dropping the appeal, they decide to take the test case to the High Court for all First Nation pe
Koiki 'Eddie' and Bonita begin raising money for their journey to the High Court of Canberra. The High Court proceedings for Mabo and Others v Queensland (No 2) begins. After, Eddie 'Koiki', Bonita celebrate the fight they have fought together. At home, Eddie is confronted by his lost family time and the discovery of cancer in his hip. The family stand by him in hospital, and his lawyers try to bring the decision forward. Bonita recollects their life together, and Eddie writes a letter to his Mu
Bryan Keon-Cohen walks alone to the High Court to hear the ruling. The judges find 6:1 in favour of Mabo and Mer Islanders, effectively overturning terra nullius. Meanwhile, Bonita and her son drive towards Canberra, but their car breaks down before they make it. They join an older couple camping on the side of the road and listen to the ruling on the radio. Keon-Cohen informs the Mer Islanders, and we hear Eddie 'Koiki' Mabo reads his final letter. Archival footage shows Bonita, Eddie and Murra
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