Reconciliation Week 2024 comes to an end today (June 3rd), which is also known as Mabo Day. This date commemorates the work of Eddie Koiki Mabo, who was a Torres Strait Islander who fought for better recognition of the unique connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have with the land. But not only is this date an important part of our own history that we should all be familiar with, but it has special significance for coffee people.

Eddie Koiki Mabo was born in 1936 on Mer, which is also known as Murray Island, in the Torres Strait. Eddie Mabo was an integral figure in establishing what we now know as Native Title, and in fighting to have the designation of "terra nullius" (empty land – or land that belongs to nobody) which had been applied to Australia when British colonisers first arrived in 1788. This designation aimed to remove the unique connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have with the land.

So, what does this mean for coffee people, and why should we care? Well, the reality of the coffee supply chain that is not spoken about often enough, is the colonial history of coffee production. Coffee is now, and has always been, a highly valuable commodity. And colonial nations throughout history have forcefully claimed ownership if indigenous people's land to grow their resources, such as planting high value crops, including coffee.

Now, this isn't to say that all coffee production is bad. There are coffee producers all over the world who rely on the supply chain for their livelihood. But it's also important to acknowledge the complex history of coffee production. After all, there's a reason people speak Spanish in Colombia, Portuguese in Brazil, and French in Rwanda.

It took 10 years for the High Court of Australia to decide on the Mabo case, and to acknowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land, and that these rights existed before the British arrived and can still exist today. Sadly, Eddie Mabo died just five months before the High Court made its decision, and never knew result of his legal case. But his legacy continues today, not only in how traditional owners of the land are recognised, but in how everyone can, and should, acknowledge the complicated history of the lives we lead today. Even the little things, like a simple cup of coffee, have history that should be acknowledged. And in doing so, we can contribute to a more considerate culture, and a fairer future.

On 3 June 2015 (Mabo Day), the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences dedicated and named a star after Eddie Koiki Mabo in the Sydney Southern Star Catalogue. ​The star named Koiki (circled) located below and to the west of Acrux, the bottom of the Southern Cross.

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