Portrait quest was no walk in the park

Michael Long and the portrait painted by Melbourne artist Meg Davoren-Honey that will be entered in the Archibald Prize.
Photo: Pat Scala

Michael Gordon
December 1, 2006

WHEN Michael Long set off on his walk to Canberra two years ago, he also inspired Melbourne artist Meg Davoren-Honey to embark on a journey of her own.

"It started when I read the newspaper reports that he was walking to Canberra to make a difference for indigenous people and I just admired him so much for his dedication," the artist said yesterday.

When Melburnians joined Long in a second walk around Princes Park last year to demonstrate their support for the cause, Davoren-Honey went along, introduced herself to the former Essendon champion and asked if she could paint his portrait.

"It took a while because I had to go to Darwin to find him and I met him one afternoon while he was training the kids. We had a lovely chat about his dreams and plans and I was struck once again by what an inspiration he is."

When Long returned to Melbourne last week to finalise the planning for this year's Long Walk, around Albert Park Lake, he called by Davoren-Honey's South Yarra studio to see the portrait that will be entered in this year's Archibald Prize.

This time it was Long who was impressed by the artist's dedication to the task. "She certainly put a fair bit of work in," he said. "I enjoyed it."

Long is hoping for another big turn-out on Sunday, seeing the event as a demonstration that reconciliation is about both symbolic and practical actions. Money raised by the walk will help the Sir Douglas Nicholls Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership.

The fellowship was set up last year to foster Aboriginal leadership, initially in Victoria but ultimately across the nation. Among those walking on Sunday will be Yorta Yorta elder Paul Briggs, the first recipient of a fellowship.

The walk begins at 11am and will be followed by a concert at the Junction Oval featuring artists including Liz Cavanagh, the Bloga Boys and Joe Geia.

While many sports stars, including Cathy Freeman, will be walking, Long says the walk is as much about "people in the street who want to make a difference". Among them will be Meg Davoren-Honey.

For the footballer who took a stand against racism in sport, the walk is about many things, but overwhelmingly a time to celebrate what has been achieved and reflect of the many big challenges ahead.

"I hope people haven't forgotten because there is still a lot to do. We've got to keep up the momentum," he says.

The Age is a sponsor of the walk.