Yothu Yindi were commended for taking traditional Yolgnu dance songs and adapting them for a much broader audience.
Presenter: Tom Nightingale
TOM NIGHTINGALE: Yothu Yindi got to perform one song. They chose Treaty.
The group's leader Mandawuy Yunipingu is now frail and mostly wheelchair-bound. But last night he mustered the energy to lead them through a blistering performance as traditionally painted dancers performed around him.
Then they were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
MANDAWUY YUNIPINGU: Yothu Yindi from the start was about Indigenous culture, about Indigenous rights.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: Yothu Yindi are regarded as groundbreaking. Originally a rock band back in the late 1980s, they took traditional Yolgnu dance music from the Top End and fused it with the techno beats.
In awarding the honour, the ARIA association said Treaty was particularly significant for its use of an Aboriginal language and its international success.
ANNOUNCER: It went to number one and stayed in the charts for 22 weeks, the first song in an Aboriginal language to gain international recognition.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: Mandawuy Yunipingu used the occasion to push the case for changing Australia's Constitution to recognise Indigenous people.
MANDAWUY YUNIPINGU: Well I think that's a good, healthy thing to do because Treaty didn't quite get there. But I think recognition of Aboriginal people as prior owners of this land through the Constitution would make it even more (inaudible) than this.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett joined the band on stage after rushing from Canberra where he'd spent the day in Parliament.
Major political parties support the change but a referendum's been postponed until it's perceived to have more support.
PETER GARRETT: It can happen when both major parties and other parties in the Parliament and community groups across the nation are united in support for it. Until such time as the Liberal National Party coalition are really ready to get themselves right behind it, we'll have to keep on working.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: The main awards were unusual in that last year's male and female artist winners did so again.
Melbourne pop artist Gotye also won the album of the year - again.
GOTYE: I've toured for a number of years but haven't always found a way to enjoy it over the years and so to, in the last sort of yeah 12 to 18 months really start to appreciate everything that's happened, that's been a great experience.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: New Zealand artist Kimbra also again took home best female artist.
KIMBRA: I wasn't expecting it at all, I promise. I think you might have seen I walked on stage with my ARIA award and actually hit myself in the jaw with it.