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Australia is ready to make some historic changes to its 200-year-old constitution by requesting its citizens to approve a clause that recognizes Aborigines as the country’s first occupants.

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In a report handed to the country’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, an expert panel made up of 19 indigenous leaders, politicos, entrepreneurs, and legal eagles will review and revamp the document that still contains racist Aboriginal references, even though it had been previously amended back in 1967 when Aborigines were finally recognized as “real citizens.”

Like the Native Americans and other indigenous people, Aborigines were displaced by British settlers. The dispossession and dislocation from their land had devastating consequences to the Aborigines, because land was central to their identity. From that time, the Aborigines have endured a marginalized existence including being victims of racism and discrimination.Consequently, they are one of the poorest, unhealthiest, and most-disadvantaged people, with an average lifespan 17 years shorter than other Australians.

As for the constitution, possible revisions would include a section that would prohibit racial discrimination and acknowledge the indigenous people’s continuous relationship to their traditional lands and waters.

According to Prime Minister Gillard, changing the constitution would recognize the “unique and special place of Aboriginal people and strengthen the identity of our nation,” she told the Associated Australian Press. Gillard has reportedly pledged to hold a referendum on the constitutional changes before the next general election, due in 2013.

Perhaps this recent change to the country’s constitution is finally a step toward reconciliation as Australia strives to improve relations with the Aborigine population.

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