A group of 23 women have completed a challenging walk from Melbourne to Canberra to demand a permanent solution for refugees who are still in limbo under the federal Labor government. The diverse group included cleaners, recycling workers, childcare workers, aged and disability workers, stay-at-home mums, single mothers and students.
We started our journey on 22 September from Immigration Minister Andrew Giles’ office. We walked 20-40 kilometres a day, reaching Canberra on 18 October.
The women, along with their families, have been living in Australia on temporary visas for years—some more than a decade. They have been unfairly assessed by the Australian Fast Track system.
Most of us who participated in the walk come from a long line of refugees who fled war and sought asylum in India, only to be permanently denied basic rights. I myself have been granted citizenship here, breaking the long family cycle of displacement. But we are not going to rest until everyone has security.
We had placed our trust in the Labor Party. Some of us even volunteered our time during elections with the hope that a different government would do the right thing. However, the ALP’s announcement earlier this year—opening the possibility of permanent protection for 19,000 asylum seekers while neglecting another 12,000—perpetuated the state of uncertainty.
Frustrated by all our previous attempts to be heard, we participated in many protests and actions in Melbourne to demand an end to the perpetual suffering. At one point, we found the minister’s office closed and shuttered, increasing our anger.
So we decided that we would walk all the way to Canberra to make our voices heard and try to gain public support.
The journey itself was far from easy, especially as a group of women. We encountered snakes, vehicles passing too close, blisters, injuries and limited access to personal care facilities. Some days, we had to take cold outdoor showers and sleep on rough ground that was damp by morning.
But it was worth it.
The outpouring of support from the public has been astounding and unexpected. We stayed in Kilmore, Wallan, Seymour, Shepperton Seventh day Adventist church, Benalla, Wangaratta, Yackandandah, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Murrumbateman and Canberra. Many news outlets covered our journey: ABC, 7 News, the Seymour Telegraph, the Guardian, Red Flag and SBS, among others.
At Parliament House, we met and spoke with independent Senator David Pocock, Australian Council of Trade Unions Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien, Greens MPs and more.
We have grown stronger through this experience and are determined to persist until the government listens to our voices.