On the 21st of November 2004, former Essendon footballer, Uncle Michael Long began a historic walk of more than 650km from his home in Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra.
Uncle Michael was motivated by the struggles of his people after attending the funeral of a Community member. He could see that the Community was being pushed to the sides and their needs weren’t being met and so took it upon himself to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues back on the agenda of Parliament.
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people all along the journey joined Uncle Michael Long in support and solidarity, often walking with him for periods of the trek. Despite the walk initially being one of anger and frustration it soon became a walk of hope for the future as people continued to show support for the mission.
The AFL produced this documentary to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Uncle Michael's historic walk to bring awareness to the many issues that Aboriginal communities face around the country. [Runtime 20mins]
Uncle Michael Long on his way to Canberra. Image source: Deadly Vibe.
After 9 days of walking Uncle Michael Long arrived in Albury, it was at this time that the current Prime Minister, John Howard got wind of the trek and agreed to meet with him. As they needed to fit within the Prime Ministers schedule, Uncle Michael and his team finished the trek to Parliament House in a car arriving on Thursday, 2nd of December 2004 in Canberra.
On Friday, 3rd of December 2004 Uncle Michael Long finally met with Prime Minister John Howard. Uncle Michael spoke with the Prime Minister for over an hour surrounded by other Aboriginal leaders such as Uncle Pat and Uncle Mick Dodson and Yorta Yorta Elder, Uncle Paul Briggs. They discussed the different issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were facing every day and Uncle Michael urged the Prime Minister to go out to the communities and visit them in person.
Celebrating the 10 year anniversary of The Long Walk. Image source: Deadly Vibe.
While Prime Minister John Howard didn’t plan to change the policies his government and put in place, Uncle Michael Long’s actions were successful in getting the country discussing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues again.
Today the legacy of Uncle Michael Long’s walk to Canberra is honoured with many different events. There have been Luncheons, anniversary walks and festivals, but the main event is the annual Long Walk to Dreamtime at the 'G which began in 2006. It takes place every May with crowds walking from the Birrarung Marr to the MCG to open the Dreamtime at the ‘G match where Essendon plays Richmond.
The Long Walk has become a yearly tradition enjoyed by many. Image source: Perfect Events.