The Long Walk is about bringing people together & positive change
Cathy Freeman says the Walk is a peaceful but political demonstration aimed at tapping into people’s hearts and minds. “We’re very passionate about what we’re here for today — re-establishing on everybody’s agenda indigenous issues.
“Speaking about bringing people together Michael Long said “Cathy Freeman’s one of the greatest examples. Every Australian at the 2000 Olympics — didn’t it bring people together? What a great moment.”
Two years after Michael Long’s impetuous and historic to Canberra, the former Essendon footballer’s hopes for a new era in race relations between John Howard and Australia’s indigenous leaders have not been realised.
The Australian newspaper reports that a letter Michael Long wrote to John Howard at the time of the original walk was made public prior to this years event at Albert Park Lake, Melbourne.
“We wish you to see the appalling conditions of Aboriginal people improve and we want to play our role in achieving outcomes through self-determination,” the letter says. Indigenous Australians want the same chances as other citizens.
The Long Walk 2006
This year around 10,000 Victorians walked around Albert Park Lake to support reconciliation. The Age reports that although Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson – known as the ‘father of reconciliation’ was heartened by the show of support he accused the Federal Government of continuing the goals of the White Australia Policy.
Another Aboriginal leader, Paul Briggs, who joined Long on the first walk to Canberra, also criticised the Government for failing to provide leadership.
“The relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia is still strained and is still polarised, and we’re not doing anything on the political level to actually bring a relationship,” he said.
Mr Howard’s spokesman would not respond to the criticism but said Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough had sent a message of support to Long, saying symbolism was important but Indigenous people needed to take action to improve their lives.
Michael Long said the walk was not about one leader, but about making many indigenous leaders through raising funds for the Sir Douglas Nicholls
Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership.
Support from a Muslim teacher leading her students
One of those walking yesterday was Muslim teacher Manar Chelebi, who was wearing a hijab made from an Aboriginal flag. Ms Chelebi, a teacher at the Australian International Academy and executive officer of the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools, was leading about 45 students.
“We have lots in common, being minority groups,” she said. “We’re Australian Muslims and they’re indigenous Australians, and they’re our fellow brothers and sisters.”
If the grassroots can keep walking, talking and writing, as Cathy Freeman says, keeping the poor communication issue ‘on the agenda’ MAYBE our politicians can be led to genuine discussions on self-determination. I know there are plenty out there who will say I’m dreaming….am I?