European settlement of Australia commenced in 1788. Prior to this, Indigenous Australians inhabited the continent and had unwritten legal codes
Terra Nullius: A Latin term which translates as 'Empty Land ' or 'Nobody 's Land '. Captain Cook declared Australia to be 'Terra Nullius ' when he sailed into Botany Bay on April 28th 1770, so that he could claim Australia for Britain. This proclamation ignored the fact that hundreds of different groups of Indigenous people occupied the land.
The indigenous people did not have any form of political organisation. The British could not find any recognised leaders with authority so they couldn’t sign treaties.
The first test of terra nullius in Australia occurred with the…show more content… This assertion, however, was undermined by the fact that in 1913 the Queensland government had bought land from the Meriam people on which to build a police station. If the Crown (and therefore the State government) already owned the land then why would it have to buy some from the Indigenous inhabitants? The government had also established a land court in the early part of the 20th Century to preside over land disputes between the Meriam people. Again, why establish a court to make judgements if the land belonged to the Crown?
On 3rd June 1992 six of the seven High Court Judges ruled; 'The Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world, to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the lands of the Murray Islands '
On June 3rd 1992, six months after Eddie "Koiki" Mabo 's tragic death, the High Court upheld his claim that Murray Islanders held native title to land in the Torres Strait.
Mabo v Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1 (Mabo) declared that terra nullius had never legally existed and that it had been wrongfully applied to Australia. The high court said that 'ultimate ' title existed instead, and through that, native title could be claimed. Australian land law has developed from English land law and it was under those principles that Australia was settled. At common law all land is owned by the Crown which then deals with that land as it sees fit.