Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Footballer treks 400km to discuss Aboriginals' plight

AFP , CANBERRA

Prime Minister John Howard promised Friday to further examine the plight of indigenous Australians during a much-heralded meeting with one of Australia's greatest Aboriginal heroes.

Flanked by leading Aboriginal rights activists, former Australian Rules footballer Michael Long met Howard for an hour in Canberra after nearly exhausting himself with a symbolic 400km trek to secure the meeting.

The meeting comes amid a new row over the treatment of Aboriginals in predominantly white Australia, after a race riot in Palm Island last week which was triggered by the death in custody of a popular Aboriginal.

Earlier this week another row erupted after a 16-year-old Aboriginal youth claimed he had been dragged along the ground with a noose around his neck in Queensland state after he was allegedly caught stealing.

With blisters still on his feet from a walk from Melbourne half-way to the national capital, Long met Howard at Parliament House in the morning, together with prominent Aboriginal activists Pat Dodson and Mick Dodson.

Howard agreed to further talks. But before the meeting he pointedly ruled out any sweeping policy changes and also took issue with Long's refusal to join a new appointed body on Aboriginal affairs, which will meet next week for the first time.

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