AFL great calls for clan unity in Indigenous voice vote

·3-min read

Footy legend Michael Long has called on Indigenous groups across Australia to unite in voting 'yes' to a voice to parliament as he prepares to walk 650km to Canberra.

The AFL great will lend his support to the 'yes' vote by making the gruelling trip in coming months - almost two decades since he first set out on a historic walk from Melbourne to Canberra.

A longtime activist for Indigenous people, Long, 53, 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 was the love for my people?" Mr Long told the crowd at Melbourne's MCG on Saturday.

"Today, I urge all Australians to show their love for Aboriginal people by lacing up their shoes and joining us."

In an emotional speech, Mr Long called on Indigenous groups across Australia to vote 'yes' in the voice referendum.

"Unite the clans," he said.

"Unite us - even the opposition.

"If we are truly Australians it's got to start from today because we've got to walk together.

"We're going to show this nation what a great nation it is."

The Essendon Hall of Fame player said his journey would support the 'yes' campaign for a voice to parliament and celebrate the 20th anniversary of his initial walk when he set out to put Indigenous matters back on the national agenda.

Long had completed 325km of his planned 650km journey back in 2004 when Mr Howard called for an end to the walk and agreed to meet. 

Three years later, the Australian government offered an apology to the Stolen Generations - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were 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 advocacy and highlight the significance of the voice to the nation's future.

"Without a voice, there is no vision for Indigenous Australia," he said.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the upcoming referendum was "not the plaything of politicians".

"It belongs to you, the Australian people and it will be you that will determine the way in which we go forward as a nation," she said.

"We want you to join with us in the walk towards a nation that is unified and a nation that recognises our story in the Constitution - a nation that can hold its head high and say we are prepared to tell the truth."

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles urged Australians to vote 'yes', describing the passage of the referendum as a historic moment.

"Our First Nations people are not recognised in our nation's birth certificate," he said as he joined the AFL great on Saturday. 

"The idea that our First Nations people face an entrenched disadvantage in this country today simply by virtue of their birth offends the most fundamental principle of the Australian idea of a fair go.

"At its heart, it (a 'yes' vote) will offer to our country a new day of fairness."