'Mabo' by Yothu Yindi
Mabo's law is standing firm
To us to be strong
Spirit, law, culture and all
Showing the world
See our law
Terra nullius terra nullius
Terra nullius is dead and gone.
This song is an anthem, a celebration. Yothu Yindi, famous for their 1991 song 'Treaty', sing here about Mabo's native title victory and the death of terra nullius. The latin phrase terra nullius translates as 'land that belongs to no-one' and until Mabo v Queenland, that was how Australia had been seen by the law. The land rights of Indigenous Australians were not recognised.
Yothu Yindi achieved mainstream popularity right around the time of the Mabo v Queensland high court decision in 1992. This song was written the year after the decision came down and a year after Eddie's Mabo's death.
The lyrics of the song talk about 'Mabo's law', saying the law will give power to Indigenous people to stand strong and show the world their 'spirit, law culture and all'. Mabo became a hero for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike - having fought for his rights and those of his people.
This excerpt of the song features didgeridoo, tambourine and the sound of voices layered over one another. The mood reflects the powerful emotional and intellectual impact the Mabo v Queensland high court ruling had on Indigenous Australians. There was a feeling that anything was possible.
Similar to other Youthu Yindi songs, 'Mabo' cleverly combines strong rhythmic, electronic dance music with traditional instruments while embedding ancestral themes and native language. It is a bold musical composition. The lyrics are shouted more than sung which gives the message a triumphant tone. The use of multiple voices shouting the lyrics is effective in drawing in the listener; it compels you to join in and become part of the celebration and protest.
This is one of the tracks from Our Home. Our Land, produced by CAAMA Music and including works by various artists including Christine Anu and Yothu Yindi.
The cover image of this song is a still from the film Land Bilong Islanders (1990, Trevor Graham and Sharon Connolly, Australia). Courtesy of Trevor Graham and Yarra Bank Films.