Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Industry, Innovation & Science

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Murray Islands to be assessed for National Heritage Listing

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE WITH HON NIGEL SCULLION MP, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

The Australia Government today announced the Murray Island Group – the birthplace of Native Title – will be assessed by the Australian Heritage Council for its possible inclusion on the National Heritage List

“I am pleased that the place that led to the decision by the High Court in 1992 to overturn the fiction of terra nullius is included on the Australian Heritage Council’s new work plan,” Minister Hunt said.

“The inclusion of the Islands, located in the eastern section of the Torres Strait, on the work plan is the beginning of a process towards possible recognition of this important place as nationally significant for its association in what came to be known as the ‘Mabo decision.”

The Australian Heritage Council’s assessment will consider whether the area’s heritage values are of outstanding significance to the nation and will include the Mer, Dauar, and Waier Islands of the Murray Group.

This is the first time a place in the Torres Strait will be assessed for a potential National Heritage Listing.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion said the land ownership system at the centre of the Mabo decision was determined by the spiritual ancestor called Malo and the laws he created known as Malo’s Law.

“Over 20 years ago, the High Court, in the Mabo Decision, found the Murray Islands demonstrated evidence of a system of land ownership that pre-dated the arrival of British Sovereignty and fundamentally changed the relationship between Australia’s first people and their fellow Australians,” Senator Scullion said.

“Malo’s Law is still respected on the Island and the system of religion and law is a rich aspect of Australian cultural heritage that remains intact, enshrined in historical documents, oral histories, sacred songs, dances and the Meriam people’s interpretation of the physical features of the land and sea.”

The assessment will consider the islands’ significance to Australia as the site where Indigenous Australians aspirations to historical recognition of native title were achieved.

(ENDS)

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