Michael Long is one of the most recognisable Aboriginal 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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 Aboriginal funeral, Michael decided that something needed to be done about the plight of his people. He took it upon himself to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal supporters from all over Australia. Some walked in support for an hour, some for a day and some took the journey 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 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal 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 walkers drove some of the way to fit the Prime Minister's schedule.
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 and beyond - The Long Walk to Dreamtime at the 'G has built momentum with numbers building on year on year of people showing their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (2008 - 8,000, 2009, 10,000, 2010 - 13,000, 2011 - 15,000, 2012 - 12,000, 2013 - 16,000). In addition to the commemorative walks that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement held around the country, The Long Walk Trust also raises awareness through its education programs. Find out more here
2014 marks the 10 year Anniversary of The Long Walk and the main celebrations will take place in Melbourne on Saturday 31 May, 2014. Updates will be posted on the website and The Long Walk Facebook page.