An emotional and passionate Perth crowd gathered at the WACA on Saturday to participate in the annual AFL Long Walk prior to the Dreamtime game at Perth Stadium.
- Six thousand football fans in Perth have joined the traditional Long Walk to the Dreamtime AFL game between Essendon and Richmond
- The game and the walk are usually held in Melbourne, but COVID-19 restrictions forced the game to Western Australia
- Founder Michael Long said he was delighted by the support the Perth community had given the Dreamtime game
Founded by Essendon legend Michael Long 17 years ago, the event has traditionally been held in Melbourne as a curtain raiser to Dreamtime at the ‘G, but the COVID-19 outbreak forced a relocation to Perth, a move warmly welcomed by WA footy fans.
Tickets to the Saturday night Essendon vs Richmond game sold out in 17 hours and 6,000 people registered to join the walk across the Matagarup bridge before the match.
Welcoming the crowd to the walk, Long said he had feared that COVID-19 restrictions would mean the event would be cancelled this year.
“We were so delighted that Dreamtime game was going to be in Perth,” he said.
“It tells me that the love and passion for football in this state [is strong].”
He paid tribute to the contribution Indigenous players from the West have made, both on the field and in tackling racism.
“History hasn’t always been kind but we thank our trailblazers like Uncle Sid Jackson, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer and Nicky Winmar, and so many more.
“Through the power of football we have been able to unite people.”
Brendon Thomas, who attended with his wife and three sons, said they were excited to participate in the march for what could be the only time in Perth.
“To make them aware about where we came from, as a country.
“I don’t think it will ever happen here again, so we wanted to just have the experience and do the walk.
“I’ve watched the walk on TV and I think it’s something to be really proud of and be a part of it, it’s pretty special.”
Action important, says Premier McGowan
Premier Mark McGowan said it was important to remember the reason why Long had originally founded the walk, and for everyone to take action on closing the gap for Indigenous people.
Long walked from Melbourne to Canberra in 2004, in the wake of the Howard government’s decision to axe the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
“It is important that we not only march but also take action,” Mr McGowan said.
“Today’s march is about celebrating and acknowledging that action is important and that’s what we are all committed to.”
Dolores Thorne said it was very exciting to have the Dreamtime game played in Perth.
“I wanted to just to be part of the culture. It’s my first time for me and my girls,” she said.
Fellow Essendon legend and Brownlow medallist Gavin Wanganeen said it was “very exciting” Western Australians had thrown their support behind the game.
“It is such a warm feeling when you see non-Aboriginal people jumping on board and supporting it and that’s just an amazing feeling,” he said.
“We are getting to the stage where the numbers are actually changing when it comes to education and health and that’s the end goal and there’s a lot of great programs that are helping us get there.”
It was important to remember the Long Walk was not just about football, he said.
“With the Indigenous round, we’re celebrating the past contributions of Indigenous players and we are also celebrating Aboriginal culture here in Australia.”