Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation

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The Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation, located on Mer Island, administers land on behalf of the Meriam people. The Meriam people’s ownership of Mer, Waier and Dauar Islands was recognised in two distinct native title determinations: the Mabo decision and the Meriam People determination.

The celebrated Mabo decision was the first recognition that the common law of Australia required the recognition of pre-existing rights and interests in land and waters according to the traditional laws and customs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people. Finally decided by the High Court of Australia in 1992, the struggle of the Meriam Islanders to have their native title recognised began much earlier when Eddie Mabo and others first began to claim their land. 

The Mabo decision had a powerful impact upon Australian property law as it overturned the concept of terra nullius on which, Australia's whole land tenure system had been based. For the Meriam people, the Mabo decision recognised that they owned the island of Mer in the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait, under Ailan Lore and Kastom.

The Meriam People determination concerned two islands that had been early excluded from the Mabo decision because the factual arguments around these islands were harder to prove in court than the Mer Island claim. 

In June 1998, Sam Wailu, James Rice, Andrew Passi, Fredwin Barsa, Terry Tapim, and George Kaddy claimed title to Waier and Dauar Islands in the National Native Title Tribunal on behalf of the Dauwereb people who are a subgroup of the Meriam people. This claim was successfully negotiated between the parties. All parties agreed to recognise the Meriam peoples’ right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land. This agreement was approved by Justice Black as a consent determination in June 2001.

In addition to the Mabo decision and the Meriam People determination, the Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation also administers two Indigenous Land Use Agreements between Meriam Islanders and the Australian Custom Service and Ergon Energy, respectively.

Managed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
AIATSIS acknowledges the funding support of the Native Title Branch of
the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).