an NFSA website

After Mabo (1997)


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.

Curator’s notes

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.