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Australia’s first Big Walk 4 Refugees launches today with 16,650 km journey to remember 10,000 refugees left behind

Rural Australians for Refugees 3 mins read
Neil on his 1000 km trek from Ballarat to Sydney, August 2023. Photo, Scotty from Kranky Kactus Foto

Media Release 13 Feb 2024

Australia’s inaugural Big Walk 4 Refugees launches today, uniting people around the country in a 16,650 km virtual journey from Hobart to Canberra to highlight the prolonged uncertainty still facing 10,000 refugees in Australia. 

The Australian Government’s announcement of permanent pathways for 19,000 refugees, one year ago today, has been life-changing for thousands of people who have since received permanent visas and can re-build their lives after fleeing persecution.

The Big Walk 4 Refugees is a show of support for the 10,000 children, women and men who were left behind by this announcement and continue to face devastating uncertainty, despite having been part of the Australian community for more than 10 years.

People are being urged to don their walking shoes, get moving, and show their support for permanent visas so that these 10,000 children, women and men can fully call Australia home.

The steps that people take locally will propel the 16,650 km country-wide loop right around Australia, culminating with a final local walk to Parliament House for the last leg on Tuesday 26 March.

The Big Walk is inspired by the courageous journeys of asylum seekers who walked and cycled thousands of kilometres in 2023 to highlight the devastating impact of visa uncertainty for the 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers in limbo.

The virtual walk is being kicked off with a local walk in Ballarat, the hometown of Neil Para who started the 2023 walks with his 1000 km trek to Sydney. Twenty-two women then walked 640 km from Melbourne to Canberra. Fifteen women walked 300 km from Sydney to Canberra. Ex-cricketer Thienushan Chandrasekaram cycled 1400 km from Brisbane to Sydney and Canberra.

According to Margaret O’Donnell, Convenor of Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees:

“Our community of Ballarat has been buoyed by seeing Ballarat families able to reunite with loved ones when they receive permanent visas. We hope that this will be a reality for every one of the remaining 10,000 children, women and men who are still living with uncertainty.”

Neil, Sugaa and their three daughters have been able to see Neil’s parents for the first time in 17 years after the family was granted permanent visas in 2023 – a joyful meeting of grandparents for the three girls. Ballarat mum and dad Raj and Susan and their two Australian-born sons (10 and 7) were granted permanent visas last year and are eagerly looking forward to reuniting with the couple’s older two children, now 17 and 12, who they were forced to leave with grandparents when they fled 11 years ago.

Without permanent visas, many young people also have limited options for going to university as Fahime Asgari, one of the 22 women who walked from Melbourne to Canberra, describes:

“It is heartbreaking to see your children work so hard to finish year 12 and get the ATAR they need to pursue their dreams – only to be restricted from going to university. My daughter Parya has been accepted into a Bachelor of Science – but is forced to study as an international student which puts university costs beyond our reach.”

Australian Refugee Action Network convenor, Marie Hapke, said:

“On the anniversary of good news for 19,000 refugees, we’re urging the Australian government to expedite certainty for 10,000 people who remain in limbo because of the unfair ‘fast track’ process. These children, women and men have been contributing to our communities all around Australia for more than 10 years. It’s time to give them permanent visas, to end a decade of uncertainty, and allow them to truly belong in our Australian community.”

As well as walking, participants can run, cycle or swim. Once they sign up, people can create their own team or join one of the pre-set teams in each state or territory. Synching their distances through the Big Team Challenge app (QR code below) will progress the country-wide virtual walk. 

The Big Walk 4 Refugees is supported nationally by the Australian Refugee Action Network, Rural Australians for Refugees, Refugee Action Collective Victoria and Mums 4 Refugees.

It is free to sign up and no fundraising or sponsorship is required.


Key Facts:

12-month anniversary of announcement of permanent pathways for 19,000 refugees

Calling for certainty for 10,000 refugees who were left out of the 13 Feb 2023 announcement

Launch of virtual 16,650 km nation-wide walk to show support for 10,000 refugees left behind

About us:

The Big Walk for Refugees is a virtual walk of 16,650 km all around Australia so that people in all states and territories can show their active support for refugees, particularly the 10,000 refugees who have been living in Australia for 10 years and are part of the community, but remain in limbo because they do not have permanent visas. The Big Walk is supported by Rural Australians for Refugees, the Australian Refugee Action Network, Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) and Mums 4 Refugees

Contact details:

Sandy Watson, Rural Australians for Refugees, 0401714880

Marie Hapke, Australian Refugee Action Network, 0409252673


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