Lizzie O’Shea explains that Australia was considered by the first fleet to be terra nullius. Essentially, that means nobody had claimed ownership of the land. But of course people had been living in Australia for thousands of years. She introduces the Mabo case, and its key players.
Lizzie talks with Bryan Keon-Cohen QC, who worked on the Mabo case which progressed slowly through the courts for ten years. One of the many problems that the team had to overcome was that of hearsay evidence. Indigenous communities rarely used written documents, and so ownership of land is passed down by telling the person what they owned. In our courts, that becomes hearsay, and does not carry as much weight as a written document.
Professor Larissa Behrendt talks about finding out about Mabo as a law student. She compares it to what was happening in Canada around the same time.
Lizzie O’Shea wraps up by reminding us that courts are bound to follow precedent but can occasionally radically change how law is interpreted, as they did with Mabo.
Find curriculum links at http://legalbriefs.com.au