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In 1992 the High Court of Australia delivered a landmark ruling known as the ‘Mabo decision’. It overturned ‘terra nullius’, a Latin expression meaning ‘land belonging to nobody’. This doctrine had stated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not own the territory they occupied for many thousands of years. The British used this principle to justify taking over the land now known as Australia in 1770.
In this film, we explore artworks made before and after 1992 that examine the continuing relationship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with their lands. Many of these works reflect on the ongoing impact of colonisation, the complexities of representation in Australian society today and questions of social and environmental injustice.
Tate acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay the respect to the Elders of these lands and acknowledge the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A Year in Art: Australia 1992 is on display at Tate Modern until spring 2022.
Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.
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