Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson has issued a historic apology to aboriginal people for their past mistreatment at teh hands of law enforcement officers.

"Today on behalf of the Western Australian police force, I would like to say sorry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait people for our participation in past wrongful actions that have caused immeasurable pain and suffering," said Commissioner Dawson.  "The forceful removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities, the displacement of mothers and their children, sisters, fathers and brothers, the loss of family and resulting destruction of culture has had grave impacts."

Dawson chose to make this announcement during NAIDOC week, which celebrates the culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Their flags are flying at Police Headquarters for the first time.  And Dawson is having his officers handle future interactions by asking themselves if they are treating aboriginal people the same way they would people of any other race.

"From this day forward, and in my time as Police Commissioner, I will take steps to heal historical wounds between police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Dawson said. 

This action is being welcomed by Aboriginal activists and advocates.  Dennis Eggington of the Aboriginal Legal Service says changing the relationship between police and indigenous people will have a positive influence in Australia as a whole.

"Everyone looks to the police as upholders of law and justice and to protect and serve, it's in the fabric of society in the way people think with this terrible relationship, but if we've got our top cop up there saying it's not good enough then that's a clear message to the whole community," said Mr. Eggington to the ABC.  "Commissioner Dawson is smart enough to know that we're over-represented in the justice system, not because we're more criminal, but because of social manipulation, discrimination and not having proper relationships which we should have had from very early days."