AFL legend Michael Long has called on Indigenous groups across Australia to vote ‘yes’ together for a vote in Parliament as he prepares to walk the 650km to Canberra.
The big Essendon will support the yes vote by making the arduous journey in the coming months – almost two decades since he first embarked on a historic trek from Melbourne to Canberra.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Michael Long’s beautiful family moment at the Dreamtime duel.
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Long, 53, a longtime tribal peoples activist, made headlines in 2004 when he led a protest march calling for a meeting with then Prime Minister John Howard.
“Two decades ago, I walked to ask the Prime Minister a simple question: Where is the love for my people?” Mr Long told the audience at the MCG ahead of Dreamtime at the G-Duel.
“Today I call on all Australians to show their love for Aboriginal people by lacing up their shoes and joining us.”
In an emotional speech, Mr Long urged indigenous groups across Australia to vote ‘yes’ in the voting referendum.
“Unite the Clans,” he said.
“Unite us – including the opposition. If we are truly Australians, we must start today because we must walk together. We will show this nation what a great nation it is.”
In a touching moment for Long and his family, two of his grandchildren became involved in the Dreamtime fight as they ran through the banner with Essendon players.
Long had found himself suddenly distracted during his pre-game live interview on Channel 7 as he explained why he had turned away to watch the Bombers.
“I hope they don’t knock anyone out,” Long joked.
“They were pretty happy, pretty excited as they ran. It’s awesome.”
Long’s family grew three weeks ago when his son Jake, a former Essendon player, gave birth to a baby boy.
“It’s great. The family legacy continues to build. It’s fantastic,” said Long.
Meanwhile, the Essendon Hall of Fame player said his trip would support the “Yes” campaign for one vote in Parliament and mark the 20th anniversary of his first walk as he set out to bring indigenous affairs back to national level to set the agenda.
Long had completed 200 miles of his planned 400-mile journey in 2004 when Mr Howard called for the trek to end and agreed to a meeting.
Three years later, the Australian government issued an apology to the “stolen generations” – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families and communities by successive governments – which included both of Mr Long’s parents .
This year, Mr. Long hopes to continue his commitment and highlight the importance of the voice to the country’s future.
“Without a voice, there is no vision for Indigenous Australia,” he said.
Linda Burney, Secretary of State for Indigenous Australia, said the forthcoming referendum was “not the politicians’ plaything”.
“It’s yours, the Australian people, and you will determine how we move forward as a nation,” she said.
“We want you to join us on our journey towards a united nation and a nation that recognizes our history in the Constitution – a nation that can hold its head up and say we are ready to speak the truth.” .”
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles urged Australians to vote “yes” and called the passage of the referendum a historic moment.
“Our First Nations are not recognized on our country’s birth certificate,” he said of joining the AFL Great on Saturday.
“The notion that our Aborigines today are at a deep rooted disadvantage simply by being born in this country goes against the most fundamental principle of the Australian idea of a fair life.”
“At its core, it (a ‘yes’) will bring our country a new day of justice.”
– with 7NEWS