National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record
- Keon-Cohen, Bryan, Dr, AM QC
- Papers of Bryan Keon-Cohen
- Date Range
- 1981-2000 (bulk 1982-1994)
- Collection Number
- MS 9518
- 7.95 metres (12 ms boxes + 14 ms cartons + 3 medium folio boxes + 1 large folio box + 1 packet)
- Physical Facet
- MS 9518: (12 ms boxes + 14 ms cartons + 3 medium folio boxes + 1 large folio box)
- Language of Materials
- Special Collections (Manuscripts)
- Mabo Litigation Records emanating from both the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. They comprise a Statement of Facts by the Plaintiffs, wills, land transactions, court transcripts, exhibits, pleadings, applications, witness statements, submissions, correspondence, memoranda and research material.
Scope and Contents
The Mabo Litigation Records arise from the litigation conducted in both the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. They comprise a Statement of Facts by the Plaintiffs, wills, land transactions, court transcripts, exhibits, pleadings, applications, witness statements, submissions, correspondence, memoranda and research material. They have been arranged into volumes in broad chronological order. Many of the papers are in copy format, especially the research materials.
Other documents generated over the ten-year period of the litigation did not find their way into this set of materials. Pursuant to normal practice, the Judges' copies of exhibits were not released. A large quantity of other categories of material generated by various members of the Plaintiffs' team and the Defendants' team have not been included. Examples of such categories would have been cases, statutes and academic publications relevant to the Mabo Case, but readily available to the public.
In July 1996 the Library acquired some papers of Greg McIntyre. They were subsequently incorporated into the Keon-Cohen Papers. While the core group is in Volumes 64, 67 and 68, some McIntyre Papers may be found in other parts of the collection, for example Volume 8.
A detailed index of 246 pages, compiled by Bryan Keon-Cohen, is available on request. This index describes individual items in each numbered volume.
Conditions Governing Access
Access conditions may apply to this collection, please refer to the collection's catalogue record for further information (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn878792).
Conditions Governing Use
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Bryan Keon-Cohen, National Library of Australia, MS 9518, [series and volume/envelope number]'.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the collection was donated to the National Library by Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC in 2000. Additional papers were donated by Greg McIntyre in 1996.
Papers of Eddie Koiki Mabo are held in the Manuscript Collection at MS 8822. The papers were acquired from Mabo's widow, Bonita, in 1995.
The majority of the papers were arranged by Bryan Keon-Cohen into volumes in broad chronological order. Papers of Greg McIntyre were incorporated into the arrangement by the Library (see Scope and Content note).
Eddie Koiki Mabo (1937-92) was born on Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. In 1982, he and four other Torres Strait Islanders began legal proceedings to establish their traditional ownership of their land. As he was the first named plaintiff in the action, it became known as the Mabo Case.
The Mabo litigation lasted ten years, from 1982 to 1992. In June 1992, six months after the death of Eddie Mabo, a landmark High Court ruling was declared. This gave legal recognition to the fact that indigenous land ownership existed before European settlement and that in some cases, this land tenure was not subsequently extinguished by the Crown. The ruling refuted the legal concept of terra nullius.
The five Murray Islander plaintiffs were: Eddie Koiki Mabo, Celuia Mapo Salee, James Rice, Sam Passi and his brother Father David Passi The lawyers who acted for the plaintiffs were Bryan Keon-Cohen, Ron Castan, Greg McIntyre and Barbara Hocking.
Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC is currently the Principal Legal Officer of the Mirimbiak Nations Aboriginal Corporation, Melbourne. He became a barrister of the Victorian Bar in September 1981. In January 1982 he was invited by Ron Castan, QC, to join the plaintiffs' legal team in what was to become known as the Mabo Case. The team began by drafting a Statement of Claim issued in the High Court of Australia in May 1982.
Greg McIntyre, whose papers are incorporated into this collection, was initially a solicitor with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Cairns. Following this, he was the instructing solicitor in the Koowarta Case. He became the instructing solicitor and occasional counsel in the Mabo cases throughout 1982-92.
Bryan Andrew Keon-Cohen has been a barrister since 1982. His legal practice has covered most jurisdictions in Australia, with the bulk of his cases relating to native title (including Mabo) and a smaller component dealing with migration matters. Keon-Cohen's professional roles have included Australian Law Reform Commission officer in 1979-1981, barrister of the Victorian Bar, 1982-1996, Queen's Counsel of the Victorian Bar from 1996-2009, and principal legal officer of the Mirimbiak Nations Aboriginal Corporation, Melbourne, 1999-2001.
The encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994.
Keon-Cohen, Bryan. 'The Mabo litigation: a personal and procedural account', Melbourne University Law Review, Vol. 24, No. 3, December 2000, pp. 892-951. Photocopy held in MS 9518, Envelope 25.
Keon-Cohen, Bryan. A Mabo Memoir: Islan Kustom to Native Title. Victoria : Zemvic Press, 2013. Available from the author at www.bryankeoncohen.com.
Sharp, Nonie. No ordinary judgment. Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press, 1996.
Mabo: life of an island man. Melbourne, Cinemedia (videorecording, Film Australia), 1997.
Plaintiffs' witness statements (B): drafts and research notes. Witnesses not used, 1986-1990 (File Volume 13)
Includes original hand-drawn maps and diagrams of various portions of land, boundary markers, etc. used in the Mabo case.
Housed in 3 folders.
Comprises: Envelope 13A Post High Court appeal decision congratulations, 1992; Envelope 13B Miscellaneous documents, 1991; Envelope 13C Miscellaneous documents, 1990; Envelope 13D Miscellaneous documents, 1988; Envelope 13E Court documents, correspondence, 1986.
The article is entitled 'The Mabo Litigation; a personal and procedural account'. Published in the Melbourne University Law Review, Volume 24, no. 3, December 2000, pages 893-951. Also posted on the Melbourne University Law Review web page.
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