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.