Daniel Andrews has thrown his support behind AFL star Michael Long as the former footballer set off on a walk from Melbourne to Canberra in support of the Yes campaign.
Long, the son of two members of the stolen generations, previously walked the 650km distance nearly 20 years ago to raise awareness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Now in the lead up to the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to parliament, and with the support of the Victorian government, he has set off once again on the same journey.
Accompanied by state politicians and supporters of the The Long Walk, the football legend told reporters “the hatred’s got to stop”.
“We’re old enough to have those discussions as people (without) negativity,” he said from the steps of the Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday morning.
“We’re better than that as Australians and I’ve seen that happen with football over time.”
Initially scheduled for 2024 to mark the 20th anniversary of the walk, Long brought the journey forward to raise support for the Voice.
“Good intentions doesn’t always work,” Long said to the media on Sunday.
“It’s about all Australians and it’s time.
“It’s time as a nation … that we come together.”
Playing for the Essendon Football Club between 1989 and 2001, Long had a major influence in establishing the racial abuse code adopted by the AFL in the 90s.
Calling on other Aussies to join him on his journey, Long is scheduled to arrive in Canberra on September 14 where he will be welcomed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Mr Andrews wished Long well on the first leg of his walk, within which he will travel from Melbourne’s CBD to Essendon in the city’s northwest.
“We’re extremely proud to have been long-time supporters of Michael and his foundation – they do fantastic work in the Aboriginal community, and we’ll continue to support them wherever we can,” the premier said.
“We wish Michael all the best as he treks up to Canberra – we all remember the impact his walk had 20 years ago, and this one will be no different.”
On Sunday, the Andrews government also announced a $250,000 donation to the Long Foundation.
The Victorian government has begun the process of establishing a Treaty, with negotiations with the recently elected leaders of the First People’s Assembly to begin later this year.