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Michael Long and Leslie Turner Long
A long walk for a good cause
It might be called the Long Walk Women’s Luncheon, but plenty of men turned up to support a very worthy cause held in Adelaide last week.
The Long Walk charity has grown out of Michael Long’s walk from Melbourne to Canberra in late 2004 to highlight concerns about the situation of Indigenous people.
As patron of The Long Walk, Michael was at the luncheon to emphasise that it isn’t about Indigneous and white Australians but it’s about all Australians. The Womens’ luncheons are also held in Melbourne and Darwin to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Christine Brown from Nunga Wangga asked Michael how long the luncheons had been happening here. She also spoke to Leslie Turner, Michael Long’s partner and Paul Caica, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Michael Long is one of the most recognisable Indigenous figures in AFL football. He played for the Essendon Football Club between 1989 and 2001, was a member of two premiership sides and the winner of the 1993 Norm Smith Medal.
Michael championed the Indigenous cause within the AFL. In 1995, Michael made a stand against racial abuse, following an on-field incident with another player, asserting that racism had no place in sport.
Ultimately this lead to Michael being one of the pioneering forces behind the racial abuse code that was adopted by the AFL in the 1990s. Michael retired from football in 2001.
The Long Walk to Canberra
On 21 November 2004 Michael Long embarked an historic trek, walking from his home in the suburbs of Melbourne all the way to Parliament House in Canberra – more than 650 kilometres away.
After returning home from yet another Indigenous funeral, Michael decided that something needed to be done about the plight of his people. He took it upon himself to get Indigenous issues back on the national agenda and resolved to meet with Prime Minister John Howard to discuss his concerns… even if he had to walk all the way to Canberra to do it.
Michael was joined on the road by Indigenous and non-Indigenous supporters from all over Australia. Some walked in support for an hour, some for a day and some walked all the way to Canberra. As the walkers passed through the Victorian countryside, local people came out to meet them, offering encouragement, support and assistance.
Seeing both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people rallying together, Michael’s Long Walk became a mission of hope. The troupe started walking out of frustration and pain but as they walked they began to understand that Australians from all walks of life had been looking for a way to express their support for Aboriginal culture for a long time.
The Long Walk website was flooded with thousands of emails from Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians expressing their support. A common theme emerged – the Long Walk provided a much-needed public vehicle allowing Australians to express their commitment to reconciliation and a united Australia.
READ THE LETTER THE WALKERS WROTE TO PRIME MINISTER JOHN HOWARD ON THE ROAD (2004)
When he heard about this amazing journey, the Prime Minister agreed to meet Michael when he arrived in Canberra.
The Long Walk officially came to an end on Thursday, 2 December 2004 as the walkers arrived in Canberra. The final leg wound its way through the heart of the city and the weary walkers were joined by thousands of supporters as they made their way to the Prime Minister’s office.
On Friday, 3 December 2004 Michael Long finally met with Prime Minister John Howard.
The Long Walk today
Today Michael Long and his supporters continue to promote the story of The Long Walk in all communities.
December 2005 – Over 10,000 Victorians joined Michael Long on a community walk around Princes Park in Melbourne to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the historic walk to Canberra.
Geelong women Jacqui Marion, Julie Phillips, Trish Atkinson-Sinclair and Merryn Apma walk 75km from Geelong to Melbourne to join The Long Walk in Princes Park.
May 2006 – The Long Walk to Dreamtime at the ‘G (inaugural event)… over 1,000 people joined Michael Long as he led The Long Walk from Birrarung Marr to the MCG to open the Essendon v Richmond match.
November 2006 – The Long Walk Women’s Luncheon (inaugural event)… 500 women from business, media, the arts, education and the community sector sat down for the largest formal gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women hosted in Melbourne.
December 2006 – Over 6,000 Victorians walked alongside Michael Long and the 2004 walkers in a symbolic walk around Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake. They walked for unity, for reconciliation and for a united Australia.
May 2007, – The Long Walk to Dreamtime at the ‘G (fast becoming one of the major events on the AFL calendar)… over 3,000 people gathered at Federation Square for a festival of music and community displays before walking to the MCG to open the big match between Richmond & Essendon.
May 2008, 2009, 2010 – The Long Walk to Dreamtime at the ‘G has built momentum with numbers building on year on year of people showing their support for Indigenous Australians (2008 – 8,000, 2009, 10,000, 2010 – 13,000). In addition to the commemorative walks that raise awareness of Indigenous achievement, The Long Walk Trust also supports programs that improve Indigenous wellbeing. Find out more here