...As Willed by my Father...
One Meriam witness in the Mabo land case explained to the court how he owned land 'as willed by my father.' That right was undetachable from the responsibility to share it with certain kin and to look after it, as landowner. Gobedar Noah explained to the court: 'My dad told me ... "If I am gone, you have every right and all the responsibility for my land as my eldest son".'
Transcript, Mabo case 1989, p2108, from Sharp, 'No Ordinary Judgment', pp77-78.
Inheritance is like a covenant where spoken words of father to son (or in some cases daughter) carry the primary authority. In Meriam tradition spoken words create an indissoluble bond between one generation and the next. It is a covenant between those who come first with those who come 'behind'. Meriam landowner, Gobedar Noah explains how 'In Meriam ways ... if it is passed on by words it is sealed.' His words match in eloquence the conveying of a sacred trust, akin to the ancient custom of 'plighting a troth' in European tradition. Spoken words come first because they are the medium of the face-to-face. It is these direct person-to-person relations which form the primary invisible bonds which make up Meriam social life.
Keywords: evidence, inheritance, land ownership, No Ordinary Judgement, Noah, Gobedar, witnesses, 1989
Sharp, Nonie 1996 'No Ordinary Judgment', Aboriginal Studies Press, pp 77-78.
Author: Sharp, Nonie
Source: Transcript, Mabo case 1989, p 2108