One of Australia's top reconciliation advocates says Aboriginals will have to "fight for cultural survival" if they want to preserve their language and culture.
Fred Chaney, a Reconciliation Australia director and former deputy president of the National Native Title Tribunal, said many Australians had an "assimilationist frame of mind".
"I concede there has been a lot of loss of language," Mr Chaney said in Perth yesterday.
"I concede a general assimilationist frame of mind on the part of many Australians and I think that's a constant struggle.
"I turn to the Aboriginal people and say, 'If you want cultural survival you have to fight for it because that's going to be your part in this'.
"I think they do want cultural survival. They have shown an incredible capacity to do so far."
Mr Chaney was speaking at an Equal Opportunity Commission event to mark the United Nations' Human Rights Day.
In a wide-ranging speech, he singled out the high proportion of Aboriginal people in prison as a sign of how much progress still had to be made.
Mr Chaney also backed previous comments by WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan that Aboriginal incarceration was less an issue of policing than social policy.