13 Feb 2013

Aboriginals declared first people of Australia

7:25 pm on 13 February 2013

Lawmakers have passed legislation recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of Australia.

The bill is considered an interim step on the path towards an eventual referendum for constitutional change.

The ABC reports its passage coincides with the five year anniversary on which former prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised to Stolen Generations - children who were removed from their families by state agencies.

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has described the legislation as a "sign of good faith" that parliament is committed to righting the wrongs of previous actions.

Ms Gillard has indicated that the bill seeks to foster momentum for a referendum for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Tony Abbott says constitutional recognition for indigenous people is long overdue.