In the 1990’s Michael Long inspired a watershed national conversation on racism faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2004 he walked to Canberra for respect and unity. This year, just like in 2004, he's walking again for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be heard.
Statement from Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine
In the 1990’s Michael Long inspired a watershed national conversation on racism faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on and off the footy field.
Then in 2004 he began a trek to Canberra for respect and unity.
The government had just announced its intention to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). Michael worried about how his people were going to be able to speak up and be heard on issues that affect them.
His question for then Prime Minister John Howard was ‘Where is the love for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?’
Like so many times before, Longy responded to ignorance with steely determination, a deep belief in his mission, and perhaps most importantly, an invitation to talk.
For him it wasn’t just about that conversation in Parliament House but about the people that he met in towns and communities along the way.
Today our nation is occupied with a different question in the upcoming referendum, when we will be asked to to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
However Michael’s compassionate impulse to invite Australia to walk beside him is the same.
This is why he is a guiding figure for the reconciliation movement.
This year, just like in 2004, we stand at a moment where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are asking to be heard.
Reconciliation is everyone’s business, every day of the year, but now more than ever we need to step up to the plate.
We need to take inspiration from Longy and push for a more just, equitable and reconciled country.
We can also take inspiration from the past generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and activists that have fought hard and paved the way.
There are people who walked with Michael then, and they are here again to walk two decades later.
They know generations of people have fought hard for meaningful change and future gains are likely to take just as long – but it’s necessary for the wellbeing of our children and our children’s children.
This is what being a voice for generations is about.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was an invitation to the Australian people. It’s not just about what happens in our halls of power, but about the conversations that take place over tables and garden fences; across supermarket shopping aisles and around water coolers; in local footy clubs, and on fields in stadiums in front of thousands.
As Michael walks from Wurundjeri Country to Ngunnawal-Ngambri Country, I know he will be keeping this in mind.
Michael is walking from Sunday 27 August 2023 and arriving in Canberra on Wednesday 13 September.