By Honey Gillard
IT’S been 40 years now since the Australian Aboriginals were first recognized as official human beings – going from the ‘flora and fauna’ of Australia to it’s inhabitants –it’d seem to be a time for indigenous Australians to celebrate, but sadly for many who are still living an inequitable and deprived life this event is nothing to celebrate.
In the 1967 referendum an astonishing 91% of white Australians voted in favour of the inclusion of indigenous people in the national census, after almost a decade of Aboriginal right campaigning. This resulted in colossal alteration to Australian society that provided hope to manys doorsteps of justice and equality for all the Aboriginies who had endured immense and injust segregation in many areas, including such necessities as housing and education. It’s sad to hear that such promises are yet to be kept.
Activist Neville Perkins says that even after 40 years words have not been kept by the government and statistics are still grim – if not worse.

He says: “While there have been some improvements since the 1967 referendum, there is still room for more improvement in the living conditions of Aboriginal Australians and unfortunately under the Howard Government, Aboriginal affairs has gone backward.”

“We still have the poorest health rates in Australia.”

Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy 17 years shorter than non-Indigenous people – a deficit that Senator Andrew Bartlett claims must be top priority for all Australian governments.

Reconciliation Australia board member Fred Chaney says life expectancy is a chief evidence of the government’s failure.
“It overlays a whole lot of other social statistics, in education, in employment, health and so on all of which need attention, but life expectancy is a reminder that we’re doing worse than the United States, worse than Canada and worse than New Zealand,” says Chaney.
Prime Minster John Howard has admitted that many of the improvements in Aborigines’ lives that supporters of the ’67 referendum hoped and voted for have not transpired.
Howard stated that the rights which were fought for in 1967 were no rights at all if “accompanied by grinding poverty, overcrowding, poor health, violence and isolation from mainstream society”.

On his attendance at a Canberra function held to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the referendum the Prime Minister was greeted with a swarm of “boo”s echoing in his address.
In spite of the reception of Howard’s hostile salutation, the Howard Government is reportedly now putting plans into place (and action this time) to finally deliver better services to those Aboriginal communities, existing on the outer reaches of society.
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