VACCHO celebrated revered leader Michael Long who encouraged Australia to “share the love” whilst embarking on his 650 km walk for a ‘Yes’ vote from Melbourne to Canberra on Sunday.
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains names and references to people who have returned to the Dreaming.
There were moving scenes as a huge turnout joined the proud Anmatyerre, Maranunggu, and Tiwi man on the 10km first leg of his journey from Federation Square to Essendon heartland Windy Hill.
The footy icon and staunch activist has brought forward the 20th anniversary of his inaugural walk by one year – to raise important awareness of the many benefits a First Nations’ Voice to Parliament will bring to Community.
Yesterday’s launch of the Long Walk was a special day filled with energy and enthusiasm with a Welcome to Country courtesy of Aunty Joy Murphy, a Djirri Djirri dance performance, and moving musical tribute to the late Archie Roach courtesy of Dave Arden.
Amongst those in attendance to pay tribute to Michael Long were Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria Co-Chairs Ngarra Murray and Rueben Berg, Olympic Gold medalist Nova Peris, Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp, Essendon Premiership coach Kevin Sheedy and VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to VACCHO during his speech – noting that the work of the Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector demonstrates the power of listening to Aboriginal people and by putting their ways of knowing, being, and doing at the centre of the solutions you deliver far better health outcomes.
Michael Long received a standing ovation as he spoke with passion about the Uluru Statement From The Heart as he declared it “time to unite this country – not divide.”
“It’s time Australia for a change for all. It’s a time to be heard Australia. It’s a time to understand.”
“Australia it’s a time to be respected. It’s time Australia for Aboriginal people to have a voice.”
“It’s time to walk with us, black and white, hand in hand. It’s time Australia to share the love. It’s time to vote Yes. It’s time Australia – so let’s walk together as one country.”
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher who attended yesterday’s launch, described Long’s efforts as inspiring.
“Twenty years ago, Michael Long boldly and bravely stood up and made the Prime Minister listen. Two decades later he is putting in another best on ground performance to unite this country – and give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a Voice.”
“What Michael is doing to galvonise Communities across Australia is incredible – and on a personal level I’ve found it so inspiring and energising to see him speak today.”
“I encourage everyone to stand with and beside Michael on this quest, listen to his wisdom and his stories, and support the “Yes” vote that will empower Aboriginal Communities to have a real say – and a real standing in this country.”
The Long Walk will continue to Epping today before heading through Shepparton this weekend – then to Albury next week – through Wagga Wagga and Yass, and finally towards the final leg of the journey at parliament house in Canberra on September 14.