Australian PM looks towards to Aboriginal recognition

08:12, June 09, 2011      

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It will be an uplifting and uniting moment when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are recognized in the Australian constitution, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Wednesday.

Earlier, the government has promised to hold a referendum on recognizing indigenous people in the constitution, most likely by inserting a statement in a preamble or placing one in the body of the document.

Gillard, who is on a three-day tour of north and central Australian lands occupied by Aborigines, has proposed a referendum on changing the nation's founding document to mention the vast continent's indigenous people.

"Recognizing the unique and special place of the first Australians in the Australian Constitution can be a wonderful national goal," Gillard said in a speech at Arnhem Land of Northern Territory on Wednesday, quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

"An opportunity to recognize, in the founding document of our nationhood, our shared pride in being Australian and our shared pride in Australia's continuing indigenous culture."

In her speech, Gillard noted the 1967 referendum to recognize Aboriginal people in the census, as well as the later recognition of land rights and an historic 2008 apology for past injustices suffered since British settlement.

"I believe that in the coming years our nation can shape a shared future in which we co-operate to end the disadvantage in the lives of our people and mark that co-operation in the life of our nation with a spirit of respect," she said.

Gillard was in Arnhem Land to witness the signing of an agreement between traditional landowners in the Northern Territory 's Gove region and mining giant Rio Tinto Alcan.

She said the deal, which secures the future operations of a bauxite mine and alumina refinery as well as providing economic and work benefits for the local indigenous people, was a cause for celebration.

Aboriginal Australians, who currently make up more than 2.5 percent of Australia's population, are the most disadvantaged group in the country, suffering significantly lower life expectancies than other citizens, higher rates of incarceration and lack of opportunities.

Source: Xinhua
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