Pat Farmer is surprisingly calm for someone who is running 14,000 km around Australia.
He’s now in the Riverina, and today (Friday 1 September), the 61-year-old will be running from Gundagai to Wagga in support of the Voice to Parliament ‘Yes’ campaign.
He’s expected to arrive in Wagga between 4:30 and 6:30 pm after completing one of the longest stretches of his 14,400 km marathon.
He started in Tasmania in April and the ultra-marathon runner and former Liberal MP is circling the continent before ending up at Uluru in mid-October.
“I’m taking on this run around Australia, more than 14,000 km, pushing my body to around 80 km per day, day-in, day-out, through all weather conditions because I feel passionate about equality in this country for every human being,” he says.
The timing is especially poignant in the wake of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s revelation on Wednesday that the referendum will be held on 14 October.
“Every citizen should have the opportunity for a good quality of life and the chance to realise their potential,” Mr Farmer says.
“We have a chance to create history and walk through the future together as one. Let’s not miss this opportunity. I want to encourage everybody in Wagga Wagga and throughout the whole of Australia to support the Voice for this reason.”
Pat is no stranger to running for a worthy cause.
His joggers have taken him all over the world and he’s run to promote issues regarding access to clean water to women’s education.
Most famously, he ran around Australia for the centenary of federation before entering Federal Parliament as the Liberal MP for the southwest Sydney/Southern Highlands seat of Macarthur.
At 61, he wasn’t necessarily expecting to load up the caravan and get moving again but says the cause was too important for him to ignore.
“I was a member of the Howard government and I’d sit in those joint party room meetings and hear learned people argue all the reasons why we could not apologise to the Stolen Generations, all the lawyers telling us it would cost billions, the people who thought we’d lose everything by admitting that fault.
“Back then, I thought those people were smarter than me. In 2007, thank goodness, we lost the election and I watched Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson apologise on behalf of the nation for stealing people’s children and destroying families. It cost us not a cent but went so far towards the healing process.
“I can’t help but feel the same fraudulent reasons are being advanced against the Voice and that’s what empowered me to run,” he says.
Pat says he’s most troubled by some of the arguments being raised by opponents of the Voice, whom he thinks should know better. In particular, he points to the frequently argued position of not having enough detail on proposed constitutional inclusions.
“The constitution is our book of rules. The legislation puts into effect the detail after it’s debated in parliament. Politicians know that’s how it works, and yet instead of saying that, they tell people the detail is missing. It’s just a lie and I’m happy to call them out on it,” he says.
Everywhere he goes, he uses the run to start conversations with people, fill them in on details from the Yes case and present information in a straightforward manner.
Reactions have been mostly positive, although some people have taken the trouble to cross six lines of traffic to “stick their fingers in my face and shout at me about voting ‘No’”, he says.
“Sadly, I’ve come across a number of people in this country who are caught in yesteryear’s bigotry. I won’t repeat the language they’ve used to me; it is completely out of line with today’s standards.”
Riverina for Yes representative Peita Vincent hopes that people across the Riverina will take the time to consider the reasons for Mr Farmer’s run.
“What he’s undertaking to raise awareness of the Voice is epic. It’s not just about voting, it’s about taking a stand for human rights and equality in this country, and I think a lot of people will find that inspiring particularly when lots of us couldn’t run 14 km, let alone 14,000!” she says.
“We hope local runners join Pat as he makes his way into Wagga. It’s no doubt heartening to have others join in and this history in the making.”
After Wagga, the run will continue on towards Port Augusta in South Australia before continuing on to Alice Springs and Uluru.
You can also follow Pat’s progress on his website, where his Strava beacon shows his location each day.