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Now to the story...

Latham joins Long walk

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 December 2004

Three hundred people including Federal Opposition Leader Mark Latham have joined former AFL star Michael Long in his walk through Canberra today, while more than 100 people rallied in the Northern Territory to support the march.

Long left Melbourne two weeks ago planning to walk to Canberra to raise awareness about Indigenous issues.

He abandoned the trek in Albury after Prime Minister John Howard agreed to a meeting in Canberra tomorrow.

Mr Latham joined today's march early but was reluctant to criticise the lack of Coalition members taking part.

"I don't exactly know what notice they've got of it," Mr Latham said. "I'm not here to say it's terrible that others aren't here.

"I'm happy to give Michael encouragement and congratulate him and be part of the walk myself."

Prime Minister John Howard says Long could have had a place on the Government's new Indigenous Advisory Committee if he had wanted one.

Mr Howard says he is not willing to revisit the Government's decision to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

But he says he is interested in Long's views.

"Michael Long could have had a meeting with me without commencing the walk," Mr Howard said.

"I respect the fact that he wanted to demonstrate something by that but I last saw Michael Long at the AFL grand final in Melbourne and we chatted amiably and I'm very happy to have a talk with him.

"We did invite him to join the committee but he felt unable to accept that invitation."

Long says he refused to take up the offer because some prominent elders advised him not to touch the committee "with a 10-foot pole".


In Darwin, Aboriginal leaders have marched through the CBD to Parliament House to lament the current state of Indigenous affairs in Australia.

In a show of solidarity with Long, more than 100 people turned out for the rally.

Prominent Northern Territory Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth says the Indigenous community must take some responsibility for allowing its representative bodies to be destroyed.

"To a certain extent the Aboriginal community is guilty by association because we allowed the big organisations to collapse," he said.

"We've allowed us to go quiet for political expediency. The Northern and Central Land Councils are actually roadkill on the road to Aboriginal development, that's how bad it is."

Long's father, Stephen Long, was part of today's march. He says it is important to show the Federal Government that people all over Australia care about Indigenous affairs, and to encourage politicians to find out more about the lives of Indigenous people.

"I don't think they know what really goes on in the Top End, especially out in the communities," Mr Long said. "It's a totally different lifestyle."

Yilli Rreung Regional Council's Kimberley Hunter thanked Michael Long for reminding Australia about the dire state of many Aboriginal communities.

"We're becoming the forgotten people in Australia and it's important that we actually do get ourselves together and take some responsibility for that," she said.

In Alice Springs, about 30 people have also rallied to support Long's march.

Veteran rights campaigner Vince Forrester told the crowd to mobilise their people for their own protests to Canberra.

"You've got to get off your black bums and organise your people," he said.

Protesters were also invited to write messages on a canvass to be sent to Prime Minister John Howard.

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