Eddie Mabo Essay

Essay question 2- In Australia, law reform is the practice of looking at current laws and then applying changes in a legal structure with the goal of improving fairness, righteousness or proficiency. In order for the reform to exist there are organizations such as reform bodies or law commissions (which are usually independent from the government) that have been set up to provide information in order to change an existing law. An example of an event and an individual that has had a massive impact on law reform in Australia is the Eddie Mabo case (Native Title Act) and the Port Arthur Massacre (Firearms Act 1996).

Eddie Mabo lived in a village in the Murray Island’s. The Meriam people (Residents of the Murray Island’s) where the traditional land owners and passed on the ownership of their land from generation to generation in a spoken ceremony. The Meriam people refined gardens, fished, constructed buildings for government dealings and social events and also established and followed their own religion. They also have a trading and exporting/importing system set up with Cape York and other neighboring islands. The British commenced settlement in the Murray Island’s in 1788 and established “British Sovereignty”.

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Eddie Mabo decided to move from the Murray Island’s to the mainland to seek employment; he then wanted to return in the 1970’s but was viewed as a trouble maker and was rejected permission to return. Under the current law at the time, Eddie Mabo had no claim to his peoples land. He then decided to approach the High Court of Australia with four other traditional land owners to try and confirm their land rights. Eddie Mabo never challenged the matter of the British acquiring Sovereignty in Australia. The Native Title Act 1994 had a purpose to protect the native title and provide compensation where this title was lost.

This act was prepared with the inclusion and input of the Indigenous people. In Mabo v. Queensland the High Court detained by majority of 4:3 that the Queensland Act was unsuccessful by asset of s. 10 of the Racial Discrimination Act because it attempted to put out rights of land ownership based on Meriam law and also without any reimbursement. In this case it is important to identify the theoretical changes in how the Meriam people accepted the English laws and how bigger affect this case has had on society both socially and legally.

It is also imperative to realize that a law set by a judge may be substituted by genuine enacted legislation that may be unjust or unfair. The main point Mabo raised was the fact that if there is a law that existed back at the point of time of colonization that had not been restored by a new western law then the laws set in place by traditional land owners would still be current until it was replaced by a brand new law. The Australian Law Reform Commission has made recommendations to recognize different characteristics of Aboriginality Customary laws but these have not yet been actively set into effect.

An Australian event that has brought about law reform in our country and in affect caused change and revolutionized our laws is the Port Arthur massacre. This event took place in Tasmania on the 28th of April, 1996 and was a killing spree which in total took the lives of 35 individuals and in addition seriously injured 21 others that day. The majority of this attack took place at the well known Port Arthur prison which is located in the south-east of Tasmania. The man that eventually pleaded guilty to these crimes was Martin Bryant; he is now serving 35 life sentences in prison.

In edition to the number of life sentences, Bryant is also serving over 1,000 year’s imprisonment for other crimes committed during this rampage. Martin Bryant was a 28 year old man who lived in the suburb of New Town located in Hobart. The Port Arthur massacre is considered Australia’s deadliest killing spree and on a larger scale, one of the world’s largest rampages of our times. Together, both federal and state governments were resistant towards firearm power and they immediately seized action in attempt to limit the accessibility of firearms.

Armed forces type semi-automatic firearms were easily accessible at the time when Bryant decided to purchase a weapon. Underneath the control of the federal government all states and territories country wide prohibited and greatly restricted the legal ownership/ use of the following weapons; self- loading rifles, self-loading and pump-action shotguns and also together with extensive constrictions on other gun laws currently in place. After such a brutal event it is easy to see why Port Arthur was the medium for massive gun law reforms.

At this time it was recorded that just in the Tasmania area alone, they had approximately 60,000 gun owners (not including firearms). In this same year the Firearms Act 1996 came into play. This act was brought about following the devastating events that took place at Port Arthur in April, 1996. All three political parties represented in Parliament came together and saw eye to eye on the serious matter of current firearm laws and how important it was to apply immediate changes.

In affect, The Firearms Act 1996 was set in place to provide far better monitoring, regulation, control and registration of firearms. The events of the Port Arthur massacre and the historic Eddie Mabo case have both had a massive impact on the way in which our country has been shaped. These events connect with one another because it forces us to understand and recognize the theoretical changes regarding status in the reception of English customs and laws. These were equally considered extremely large events both legally and socially.

In Eddie Mabo’s case, this was due to the determination demonstrated by one individual that decided to stand up for what he believed in and not to except rejection from his own land when tried to return home. He only ever left in the first place so that he could better his families and his own life by getting a better job and in turn providing a better lifestyle for the important people in his life. In the case of the Port Arthur massacres, this event affected the reformation of gun laws all across the country. You can easily see why these laws had to be immediately tightened following this tragic occurrence.

It is devastating to think that it took such a huge amount of lives to be destroyed before the current gun laws in 1996 were constricted to try and prevent an incident of this scale occurring again. After studying these two historic events that have helped shape our countries laws I strongly think that it is important to stand up for what we believe in as Australians. It is reassuring to know that if something is seen to be unjust or unfair that there is a system set in place so our laws can be changed when unforeseen situations arise and that all laws are not just ‘set in stone’.

Bibliography- Books Bingham, M (1996) Suddenly One Sunday: Harper Collins Pub. 2000 Scott, M (1996) Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage. Australia: Random House. Pub 2006 Film Wellington, R. Mabo: The Tue Native Title Revolution. Tantamount Prod. The Land Bilong Islanders online film incorporates material from Land Bilong Islanders, 52 minutes, produced by Yarra Bank Films P/L in 1990 and Mabo – Life of an Island Man, 85 minutes, produced by Film Australia in 1997.


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