PAUL Keating's Redfern speech was a "landmark" in Australia's reconciliation process, Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne said on Monday.

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the famous speech, Mr Pyne credited it with kick-starting much of the progress that had been made in indigenous affairs.

Mr Keating used the speech, delivered in Sydney's Redfern Park, to recognise the devastating impact of white settlement on Australia's Aboriginal population in the time since settlement.

"I think a lot has changed in the last 20 years and I think a lot of it can be pegged back to the speech by Paul Keating at Redfern, 20 years ago today and I think it was a landmark event and I hope to think, I like to think, that much has changed in 20 years to improve the lives of indigenous Australians, but there is a lot more that should be done and can be done," Mr Pyne told Sky News.

Mr Pyne said "symbolism and practical action" were important steps in the reconciliation process between white and Aboriginal Australia.

"The symbol of recognising the dramatic impact of white settlement on indigenous populations was a necessary speech to give .. for the Prime Minister on behalf of white Australians," he said.

"That was followed up, of course, with the apology and much in between that time of practical action undertaken by the Howard government to improve health, housing, employment and education for indigenous people."

Reconciliation Australia co-chairs Tom Calma and Melinda Cilento said it was "one of the most significant speeches ever delivered by an Australian political leader".

"In his speech Keating spoke frankly and honestly of the land theft, dispossession, violence and discrimination suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in the course of modern Australia's creation," they said in a statement.

"Significantly, Keating referred to the need for what he described as an 'act of recognition'."



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