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AFL legend Michael Long to recreate iconic walk in support of the Voice

The Long Walk was inspired by indigenous Essendon legend, Michael Long.

The Long Walk was inspired by indigenous Essendon legend, Michael Long. Photo: AAP

AFL champion Michael Long set off on his walk from Melbourne to Canberra in 2004 searching for answers to a fundamental question – “where is the love for Aboriginal people?”

Nearly 20 years on, the son of two stolen generation members still wants an answer, but thinks one could be delivered with a successful vote on the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum.

Mr Long will recreate his walk to the capital in the lead-up to the referendum and is inviting Australians to join him on the journey of reconciliation, having initially set off to speak with former prime minister John Howard when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission was abolished.

“When ATSIC was abolished, and it resonates to this year, we’ve lost our vision and our voice, and one of the major questions we asked was where was the love for Aboriginal people?” Mr Long told AAP.

“This was too important to not to bring forward our walk to Canberra to this year … we’re talking about a voice and a vision and love 20 years ago, and we’re still talking about this now.”

Some opponents of the voice argue it will divide the country by race but Mr Long sees it differently, firmly believing it’s Australia’s chance to take a big unifying step forward.

Much like The Long Walk, where “everyone is welcome to the table”.

“That’s the way we’ve always tried to do things with The Long Walk … there were people who came for a day, came for a week or a few days, some stayed for the whole journey, but I just saw this goodwill of people, there was that support and love,” Mr Long said.

Long, who met with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Monday, spoke with AAP shortly before meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Mr Dutton’s Liberal party is campaigning against the voice, but Mr Long said a hallmark of his advocacy was embracing those who don’t agree with him.

“That’s how we’ve always rolled … with respect, we had a conversation, but we opened that invitation … he’s got an important part to play,” he said.

“You’ve got to believe there’s a better future and you’ve got to believe in people – I believe in Linda Burney, Pat Dodson, good people.”

Mr Long’s walk will begin in August or September and he plans to stop in a number of regional communities to discuss the referendum.

Mr Albanese is considering the date for the vote, after parliament this week endorsed the wording of the question and constitutional change.

-AAP

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