Rights and freedoms for aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have come a long way, but is there still a long way to go towards reconciliation?
The aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people are the first residents of Australia, yet they do not enjoy the same basic rights as the other citizens. A lot of progress has been made in this regard, but there is still a long way to go.
A number of legislative reforms, such as the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Act of 1984, were aimed at improving their situation. The constitution was also amended in 1967 to remove any discriminatory reference to aboriginal people. Despite this progress, the socio-economic status of aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders is worse than that of an average Australian. They do not enjoy the same opportunities or standards of living or general access to services. This has been a major impediment in reconciliation.
These people have also sought reconciliation for a long time, including recognition of their existence as first peoples of the land and protection of their rights. However, the constitution does not recognize anybody as the first people and there is no treaty between these people and the Australians or their ancestors. It is believed that with the provision of social justice and equality, protection of heritage and culture through legislative reforms and awareness will ease the process of reconciliation, even though it may take some time.