Peter Yu of the Yawuru and Bunuba, Kimberley Land Council, talks about Indigenous relationship to land and the High Court decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1. Paul Keating stresses the chance to legislate away the fiction of terra nullius, offering a truth rather than a lie as the basis for policy. Images show Indigenous people on the land and in the meeting room. A title states, 'From September 1992 until December 1993 Indigenous people entered intense negotiations with the Federal Parliament to incorporate Native Title into legislation’. Summary by Romaine Moreton.
After Mabo quickly establishes the parameters of its narratives: the movement between Western and Indigenous perspectives on land. The documentary provides a good comparison between the different approaches to the treatment of Indigenous native title by the Labor Keating Government and the Liberal Howard Government that succeeded it in 1996.
After Mabo gives an overview to the native title legislation, focusing on the amendments made to the Native Title Act 1993 by the Howard Government as part of its 10-point plan.
In the Mabo case of 1992, the High Court recognised that original inhabitants had identifiable land rights before European settlement. The film’s title borrows from Tim Rowse’s After Mabo: Interpreting Indigenous Traditions (1993), and gives an overview of the negotiations that took place between Indigenous representative groups and the Howard Government. Filmed during 1996–97, After Mabo uses historical footage to build the narrative, then depicts the responses of Indigenous people to the government’s 10-point plan, which saw the Howard Government amending the Native Title Act 1993 introduced by the Labor Government that had preceded it.
After Mabo does not offer an in-depth explanation of native title nor the 10-point plan, thus making its target audience those who are already familiar with these concepts. It is still highly informative. After Mabo shows how groups such as the National Farmers’ Federation responded to native title, and describes their belief that native title would abolish land tenure held by non-Aboriginal Australians. After Mabo presents land as the physical, symbolic and metaphorical representation of the very different perspectives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.
After Mabo is an exciting documentary with strong momentum, and much of the dialogue and rhetoric is still relevant, providing a context for the debates around Indigenous rights and land tenure. The most respected Indigenous commentators on native title are featured, giving After Mabo added historical importance.
Notes by Romaine Moreton
The clip shows Indigenous leaders Peter Yu and Noel Pearson discussing Indigenous rights to land and the native title legislation that was introduced by the Labor government under prime minister Paul Keating after the Mabo decision in 1992. It includes the government’s rationale and a discussion of the effect on pastoral leases. There is black-and-white archival footage of the parliamentary explanation by Keating and of Rick Farley speaking on behalf of the National Farmers Federation about the new law. The clip includes music and sound effects.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia