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Pat Farmer hits Voice run finish line

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Footsore and exhausted, Pat Farmer takes a well-earned rest. Photo: Supplied
Footsore and exhausted, Pat Farmer takes a well-earned rest. Photo: Supplied

Footsore, covered with flies and pressing on despite 40-plus degree temperatures, Pat Farmer is close to the end of an extraordinary run around Australia.

The former Liberal MP is now in sight of Uluru, where on 11 October he will end the most “epic” ultramarathon run of his life, supporting the Voice to Parliament referendum.

At 61, more than two decades since he first ran around Australia, he says he is mentally tougher on this run and is being buoyed by his Catholic faith and the support of many, including the country’s Indigenous people.

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He says he has a pretty good handle on what people think about the Voice to Parliament and that the conversations he has had in every state over the last six months gives him hope that the referendum will pass, despite recent polling suggesting otherwise.

“I never put much faith in polls,” the former MP said.

“It’s quite emotional when you have Aboriginal people stopping and getting out of their vehicles to put their arms around you and say, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing for my people.’”

“At the end of the day, 97 per cent of the Australian population will not be affected one way or the other as far as this whole vote is concerned.

“They’ll wake up the next morning and everything’s just business as usual for them. If the referendum gets up, then they’ll feel a bit of national pride—and that’s about it.

“If doesn’t get up, then it’ll just be back to business as usual and everything will go quiet on this whole issue and nothing will change for [Aboriginal] people.

“For the three per cent that this is really does affect, this is the choice between a future for their children, or more of the same, which is a pretty horrendous scenario from what I’ve seen so far.”

Mr Farmer, the former member for Macarthur from 2001 and 2010, launched his staggering 14,000km run for the Voice in Hobart on 17 April with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Pat Farmer is close to the end of an extraordinary run around Australia. Photo: Supplied
Pat Farmer is close to the end of an extraordinary run around Australia. Photo: Supplied

He ran around Tasmania before flying to Perth, the running up the country’s west coast to Broome, Darwin and across to Townsville before running down the east coast, across to Canberra, up through Adelaide and now onto Uluru.

The Catholic Weekly spoke to Mr Farmer in April at the beginning of his journey, and he said prayer was integral to making it through his toughest runs.

“Literally every kilometre I run is another decade of the rosary, it’s the one thing that gets me through some of my darkest times,” he told The Catholic Weekly in April.

“Sometimes when I’m doing it really tough, I say 10 Hail Marys, an Our Father and a Glory Be and that’s another kilometre done. And on some of those really, really hard days that’s the only thing keeping me going.”

Thousands of people have since joined him for a stretch of the marathon, including his own family, and he has tackled freezing cold and snow in Tasmania and searing heat on the mainland.

He said he has run through remote Indigenous communities with no clean drinking water, “horrendous” sanitary conditions, and homes with severe overcrowding.

“There’s no infrastructure, no opportunity,” he said.

“And I think that’s the saddest point is that in a lot of these communities, there’s no hope and without hope you’ve got nothing.”

Mr Farmer had left Coober Pedy at 5am and spoke to The Catholic Weekly via a satellite internet connection at 5pm on the side of the Stuart Highway, when he was near the end of the day’s run and headed for the town of Marla, about 160km from the Northern Territory border.

He has prayed the rosary for the repose of the soul of every person whose road-side memorial he has passed, and stopped for Mass when he passes through the country’s major urban centres.

“People have been thanking me, but this run is more a blessing than a burden and a privilege as well,” he said.

“But what I’ve been saying all the way along it should never have become a politicised issue, this is a humanitarian issue.

“There’s a huge need to close the gap between the haves and have-nots in this country.

“And I hope people will just forget about all the rhetoric and political jargon around the Voice and remember that this is something that was put up by the Indigenous people of Australia themselves, the Indigenous elders, and put forward to the government.”

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