Emily Sakzewski | ABC News Digital, Dec 25, 2016
Clinton Pryor is a man on a mission.
The West Australian is walking from Perth to Canberra to protest against the forced closures of Indigenous communities.
When the WA Government announced the closures of up to 150 remote communities in November 2014, Mr Pryor knew he had to do something for his people.
He travelled to Matagarup — also known as Heirisson Island — to protest the ousting of Indigenous people from their land.
He said the idea of walking across the continent came to him one night on Matagarup while he was sitting by the “spirit fire”, imagining ways he could make a difference for his country and the people of WA.
“That’s when I decided I was going to walk across the whole country,” he said, “for something”.
Mr Pryor decided to march to Parliament House to confront Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the issue.
And that is exactly what he set out to do.
Since leaving Perth on September 8, Mr Pryor has walked to Alice Springs where he will spend Christmas day.
Born in Subiaco, Mr Pryor grew up “in the community life”, living in Carnarvon, Halls Creek, Kununurra and the Mulan Community, before moving to Perth to live with his father.
He describes himself as a “Wajuk, Balardung, Kija and a Yulparitja man from the west”, but as he told the ABC: “I’m a man from Western Australia walking across the whole country for justice and for change.”
A team of eight people rallied together as Mr Pryor’s support team. One person drives alongside in the car, another rides a bike carrying the water, eight other administrative workers organise funding, and another sells shirts.
“I’ve got an amazing team of support, it’s unbelievable — and watching the people from around Australia and around the world — it’s unbelievable.”
Connecting to community
Mr Pryor has walked across Western Australia, through the outback, the Western Desert and through communities.
He walked to Kalgoorlie, attending the funeral of Elijah Doughty — the 14-year-old boy who died from being hit by a ute in Western Australia’s Goldfields.
He then made his way to Leonara, where he talked to the community and its elders about how to save their young from suicide.
From there, he walked to Wiluna and its surrounding stations where he discovered people living in poverty, where there was no clean water due to poisonous amounts of calcium.
His next stop was Laverton and from there he spent 15 days in the Western Desert, through a “stinking hot” heatwave.
He met with the Milyirrtjarra people from the Western Desert, meeting with the land council group who gave support to his cause, before heading across the WA border to the Northern Territory.
He met with the Docker River people who told him that they had six rangers looking after one million hectares of land, that they needed help from the Government so they could get more people to work with their rangers in keeping up the land and looking after it.
Everywhere he goes, Mr Pryor spends time with the community, chatting to elders, locals and kids. He tells the children to stay in school, steer clear of drugs, not to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana.
Making the milestone of Uluru
Eventually, he arrived at Uluru — a moment that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
“I’ve always dreamt about coming [to Uluru] since I was a child. But I never in my whole life thought I was going to actually walk here,” Mr Pryor said.
“Walking on the pathways heading east, when I saw Uluru, I said to myself that out of every other person that came to Uluru by car or flew on a plane … I can say to everyone that ‘I’ve walked it, I’ve walked to Uluru’.”
Mr Pryor said he loved meeting the Mutitjulu community and their elders.
“The people are very strong, connected people to the land.”
He was proud to have been gifted with a piece of Uluru from elder Reggie Uluru — the traditional owner of Uluru whose family were the original custodians and guardians of Uluru.
The piece of rock was a gift to help give strength, wisdom and courage to continue the walk.
Sweltering heat and injuries no deterrent
While walking through the Western Desert, things got tough. The group was low on water and after walking through the middle of a barren desert for 15 days, Mr Pryor said he felt close to death.
“I just had to keep on walking, no matter what,” he said.
Almost at the end of his tether, Mr Pryor and his support crew arrived at Warburton where the community welcomed them with a barbeque.
“It made me feel lifted up and … once we passed Warburton, that’s when I knew we can finish this walk off and I kept pushing until we reached the border, and when we reached the border and I got to Uluru and thought, I can do the walk and finish it off.”
Despite the temptation of wanting to stop, being too tired and sore to keep going, Mr Pryor said he was looking forward to the kilometres to come.
“It’s going to get interesting because we’ve got to head east and we’re going to hit a bit city soon. There’s going to be a lot happening once we hit Adelaide and Melbourne and Sydney and onto Canberra to confront the Prime Minister about how this Government aren’t a Government for its people no more (sic).
“The Government has turned itself into a corporation for multi-billionaires and it’s not taking care of its people.”
Corporate greed the ultimate motivation
Four months of constant walking had left him with a build-up of fluid in his left leg resulting in a lump.
“I was in so much pain and I walked 50 kilometres in pain.”
It seemed the pain added fuel to his fire to keep pushing.
“It made me think about the people who are going to lose their homes and the people who are living homeless.”
Mr Pryor said he had witnessed the poverty that existed in Australia, and spoke with disdain of the “greed of billionaires who don’t pay tax”.
“It’s the love of this world that keeps pushing me through and I just kept going because I want to make a difference.”
With thousands of social media followers, Clinton’s Walk for Justice is being watched around Australia and the world.
But the movement has hit a snag — the crowdfunding money Mr Pryor and his team acquired before the walk has run out, leaving them stranded in Alice Springs.
The lack of funding has not deterred Mr Pryor’s spirit for his cause.
“We’re going to be celebrating and patting ourselves on the back once we get to Canberra after walking across the whole continent,” he said.
“Until then, we’re going to continue doing what’s necessary and keep working and gaining more support.”
More information about Clinton Pryor and his journey are available on his website, Clinton’s Walk for Justice.