Executive Update (2022-Q2)

 In Message Stick, News

Executive Update

Welcome to the second edition of Message Stick for 2022.

30 Year Anniversary of the Mabo Decision

Friday 3 June 2022 marked 30 years since the landmark decision by the High Court of Australia to overturn the doctrine of terra nullius and establish the legal principle of native title into Australian law.

Mabo v Queensland No. 2 (1992) was mounted by five Meriam people: Eddie Koiki Mabo, Reverend David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and one Meriam woman, Celuia Mapo Sale. Eddie Koiki Mabo was the first named plaintiff, and the case became known as the ‘Mabo Case’.

The Mabo Case paved the way for hundreds of First Nations People to be recognised by the Court as the custodians of their traditional lands. It acknowledged that Indigenous peoples had indeed lived in Australia for thousands of years in accordance with their own traditional laws and customs.

Since the Mabo Decision on 3 June 1992 and the passing of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) the following year, Australia has had 556 native title determinations. Sixty four of those being in the North Queensland region and 54 represented by the North Queensland Land Council.

To celebrate this occasion NQLC took part in celebrations in Townsville, a location that Eddie Mabo spent much of his life campaigning for land rights. I was privileged to be invited to the Mabo Corporate Dinner with many esteemed guests, including the plaintiffs’ counsel, Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC. Dr Keon-Cohen presented a keynote speech which reflected on the history of the case and considered the future for native title. Other guest speakers included NQLC Director for the Townsville Ward, Angie Akee, and myself.

The official celebration day on the 3rd of June at the Mabo Memorial Monument commenced with a march from Perfume Garden Park, giving us the opportunity to debut our new NQLC banner (see image inset). NQLC’s stand at the event gave Directors Angie Akee, Gary Mooney (Mackay Ward), Danny Hooligan (Mt Garnet Ward), some of our Cairns and Townsville staff and me a chance to meet the local community, answer questions about native title and showcase the 54 native title determinations achieved by NQLC in a short video. You can view this on our YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/OwZJ3SbvriI.

A big thanks to the NQLC staff that assisted on the day and to Director Akee and her team at ABIS for inviting the NQLC to participate in the week of celebrations.


As reported in our last update, Nigel Hales of Miller Harris Lawyers stepped into the role of Acting Principal Legal Officer (PLO) while we undertook recruitment for the permanent position. Like many other native title representative bodies and service providers, securing a suitably qualified candidate to fill this specialised role is proving to be challenging.

Nigel has recently returned to his own practice, and we would like to thank him for his assistance over the last four months. It is not easy to manage your own practice whilst also supporting another corporation, and Nigel’s contribution to the management of claims and research matters has been invaluable.


We are pleased to advise that Kevin Murphy has accepted a 3 month contract for the Acting PLO role, commencing Monday 27 June 2022. Some of you may know Kevin in his previous capacity as the PLO of Carpentaria Land Council (CLCAC) before his retirement in March 2022. Before CLCAC, Kevin was also PLO for the Kimberly Land Council, a role he went into after his time working at the Queensland State government.

NQLC are very pleased to have Kevin’s expertise lead the Claims Team as we continue the search for a permanent PLO. Rest assured that the Claims Team are dedicated to ensuring that all native title claims remain on track and progressing as planned.

With the recent internal promotion of John Cecchi to Senior Legal Officer, Future Acts Mining and Exploration (FAME) Unit, NQLC is now seeking to fill the vacated Legal Officer role. If you would like to know more about this Cairns based role, please head over to the careers page on the NQLC website for further details. Congratulations John, on your promotion.

In May, we were pleased to welcome Jennifer Joyce to our Claims Team on a 4 month contract as Project Officer. Jenny has had a long relationship with the NQLC as a Mamu Traditional Owner working through Mamu’s native title claim process, and also post determination through Mamu RNTBC. We are very happy to have Jenny on board with us.

The Board are continuing their efforts to recruit for a permanent CEO and as such time as they do, I will continue performing the role on an interim arrangement. I would like to thank Jules Taylor for stepping into my substantive role of Manager, Engagement and Development Support Team (EDST) during this time.


As always, these last 3 months has been a very busy period for the Claims Team and EDST and I refer you to the their respective updates for information regarding our native title claims, research, future acts and PBC progress.



Rhonda M Jacobsen

Interim Chief Executive Officer, North Queensland Land Council

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