Prime Minister Tony Abbott plans to hold a referendum in 2017 to change the constitution and finally recognise Aborigines as the nation's first people.
Calling the change a unifying moment for the nation, Abbott said he would like the referendum to be held on May 27, 2017, the 50th anniversary of a historic referendum in which Australians granted citizenship to the Aborigines.
"This is at least as important as any of the other causes that this government has been prepared to take on," he said.
Abbott, a conservative and monarchist, has a strong commitment to social justice and has taken on the cause of improving the lot of Australia's Aborigines as a personal commitment. In September, he spent a week in a tent on a remote Aboriginal site, fulfilling a pledge to spend a week each year in an Aboriginal community.
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"The country we created has an Aboriginal heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character and it's high time that this reality was reflected in our constitution," Abbott said.
"I want our country to transcend the 'them and us' mindset to embrace 'all of us' in the spirit of generous inclusion that has always marked Australians at our best."
Abbott has repeatedly said he will only press ahead with the referendum if the change has bipartisan and wide community support because he does not want the nation to be divided over the plight of its first people.
Only eight out of 44 referendums have been approved in the 113-year history of the Australian Commonwealth.
However, the 1967 change was passed with 90 per cent support.
To be passed, the constitutional change will need the support of a majority of people in a majority of Australia's six states.
Successive leaders in Australia have grappled with the problem of overcoming Aboriginal disadvantage, which includes high rates of poverty.