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Leader vows new dawn for Aboriginals from his Outback HQ

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Getty Images

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Inside a small tent in a remote stretch of outback bushland, Australia's prime minister, Tony Abbott, inset, pulled his seat up to a portable wooden desk on which sat his laptop, deodorant, insect repellent and sunscreen.

It was an unusual choice of lodgings from which to govern the nation for a week: a khaki canvas tent, containing a hard, single mattress and a sleeping bag, in a eucalyptus forest that's sacred to the local Aboriginals.

In an unprecedented act by an Australian prime minister, he was trying to remove what he sees as an enduring stain on the national character: the unjust treatment of the Aboriginals, that dates back to the earliest British settlers.

"There is a discomfort in our national character. To this day we have not entirely come to terms with this side of the Australian reality," he said.

The conservative monarchist was born in London, studied at Oxford and describes himself as an "incorrigible Anglophile".

But he believes the arrival of British settlers on the First Fleet proved devastating for the natives. "Initially the impact was all bad - disease, dispossession, discrimination, at times wanton murder," he said.

Mr Abbott (56), a fitness-obsessed former boxer and trainee Catholic priest, is not known for his sentimentality: Australian voters have spent years watching him subject himself to feats of endurance, including working as a volunteer fireman and lifeguard.

But before he became prime minister a year ago he visited Aboriginal communities and his decision to shift the seat of government to near Yirrkala, an Aboriginal township, was intended to deliver a symbolic message. "This is, I think, an appropriate way of saying to Aboriginal people, you should be and are first-class citizens of your own country," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent