Aborigines get recognition in Australia

2013-02-13 14:06
An aboriginal boy stands outside a store in the remote outback town of Wadeye in the Northern Terrritory. (File, AP)

An aboriginal boy stands outside a store in the remote outback town of Wadeye in the Northern Terrritory. (File, AP)

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Sydney - Australia's parliament on Wednesday approved a law recognising Aborigines as the first inhabitants amid cheers from the leaders of the around 500 000 people out of a population of 22 million who claim indigenous ancestry.

The Act of Recognition paves the way for a referendum that would allow the constitution to be amended to give indigenous people a special place in society.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said recognition in the charter would salve the "unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story".

A referendum has not been scheduled but could come in 2014 and would allow a change in the constitution to state that there was an indigenous population when the first white settlers arrived from Britain in 1788.

"We have to acknowledge that pre-1788 this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now and until we've acknowledged that we'll be an incomplete nation and a torn people," opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott said. "We need to atone for the omissions and for the hardness of heart of our forebears, to enable us all to embrace the future as a united people."

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