Tony Abbott has acknowledged the rare honour of being able to visit the resting place of Eddie Mabo, regarded as the father of Indigenous land rights.
The prime minister was greeted with a wreath of leaves, drumming and Indigenous dancers as he landed on Mer Island in the Torres Strait on Monday morning.
“It is an honour for me to be here on an island which now resonates right around Australia as the place where native title was first acknowledged,” Mr Abbott told the locals who greeted him.
Mr Abbott arrived in the Torres Strait on Sunday night to honour his pre-election commitment to spend one week every year in a remote Indigenous community.
Mr Mabo led the landmark High Court case that in 1992 handed Indigenous Australians land rights and rejected the doctrine of terra nullius – land belonging to no one.
The decision sparked the drafting of the Native Title Act, which established the legislative framework for claims for rights to traditional land.
The 55-year-old trade unionist did not live to see the outcome of the High Court challenge, dying about six months earlier from cancer.
Mer Island, home to 450 locals and eight tribes, is the birth and resting place of Mr Mabo.
The daughter of legendary campaigner Eddie Koiki Mabo awaits @TonyAbbottMHR arrival on Murray Island. #auspol pic.twitter韩国半永久纹眉会所,/iHE9tKjC0l
— Brooke Boney (@boneybrooke) August 23, 2015
Mr Abbott will tour the community and meet locals before heading to Thursday Island for a ceremonial dinner.
Up to eight ministers, including Attorney-General George Brandis and Health Minister Sussan Ley, are expected to join the prime minister throughout the week.
It’s the first prime ministerial visit to the region since John Howard travelled to the islands 18 years ago.