On the 21st of November 2004, Michael Long, one of the most recognisable Aboriginal figures in the AFL, embarked on a historic trek, walking from his home in the suburbs of Melbourne all the way to Parliament House in Canberra, more than 650km away to meet with the Prime Minister of Australia to champion change and address the plight of his people. This week’s #FortunateFriday feature is The Long Walk, a charity dedicated to empower and develop the talents and skills of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
The Long Walk
After returning from yet another Aboriginal funeral, Michael Long, a former Essendon Football Club player between 1989 and 2001, decided that something needed to be done about the challenges and discrimination his people were facing. 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. This inspired him to walk all the way to Parliament House in Canberra from his home in Melbourne in 2004.
Along the way, Michael was joined by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, rallying together in support of his mission. They came from all walks of life and all had been looking for a way to express their support for the Aboriginal culture for a long time. The Long Walk provided a much needed public vehicle allowing Australians to express their commitment to reconciliation and a united Australia.
The Long Walk officially came to an end on Thursday, the 2nd of December 2004. The final leg of the walk 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.
The plight of Australia’s Indigenous population
Australia’s Indigenous community make up approximately 3 percent of our 24 million population. Not only were they ill-treated and have had their way of lives threatened when European settlers began coming to Australian 1788, but their land was forcefully and unfairly acquisitioned from them, leaving many homeless and destitute. When our Indigenous community tried to defend their territory and their traditions, they were shot or poisoned by the settlers.
Today, the effects of this horrific treatment of our Indigenous community is still reverberating. Majority of our Indigenous population are near the bottom across all economic and social indicators, life expectancy is 10-years shorter than the rest of the population, employment rates have been sliding with 48.4 percent of Aborigines in a job in 2014-2015, compared with 72.6 percent of non-indigenous people, suicide and self-harm rates are at crisis levels with the hospitalisation rate related to self-harm jumping to 56 percent between 2005 and 2015, and juvenile detention rates 24 times higher for Indigenous Australians than non-indigenous Australians.
How have we as a society continued to allow for this maltreatment of our Indigenous people? Sometimes, it is easy to ask those questions, but the answers are not that simple. If only the hands of time can be turned back and the atrocities they had faced were never perpetrated, their lives could be starkly different right now. There needs to be more action not just from our governments, but from us as individuals on how we conduct ourselves,
We Walk Together 2017
This year, The Long Walk is organising an event – We Walk Together 2017 taking place on the 27th of May 2017 starting at the Federation Square. There will be a Welcome to Country, followed by a Flag Raising Ceremony from 1pm onwards. There will be entertainment by some of Australia’s best Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent including MC Joe Williams, Casey Donovan, Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, Soul Singers and Jayden Reid, along with plenty of sporting and cultural events. Some of Melbourne’s delicious food trucks will also be there.
It is important for us to read about our histories and learn from it. There is so much it can teach us and prepare us for what the future holds. Our Indigenous Australians deserve to be given fair opportunities and build a great lives for themselves and their families. Whilst we ourselves did not perpetrate the atrocities experienced by our Indigenous Australians, it is up to us to mend the broken relationships and to do our best to provide our Indigenous Australians with the respect and opportunities they deserve.
Our Indigenous Australians scholarship program
At Dolph Business School, we want to be able to contribute to our amazing Indigenous Australians and we believe that the education is the best way to empower people. We are in the process of establishing a scholarship program for our Indigenous Australians and are welcoming any submissions to help us design a meaningful scholarship program for our Indigenous Australian community. We have extended submissions to help us create a valuable scholarship program for our Indigenous Australians to the 30th of June 2017. Any businesses interested in partnering with us in delivering a meaningful scholarship program to our Indigenous Australians may also reach out to our Head of Operations at: [email protected].
Please note, our #FortunateFriday posts are not sponsored. They are chosen to be featured by our team in consultation with our students, and they are chosen because we believe in what they do and want the world to know about them!
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‘Till our next #FortunateFriday feature, have a great week and remember to be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Your act of kindness could create immense change beyond your wildest imagination!
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