Heather Mutimer

On Wednesday, about 20 people gathered at the Vincent St and Howe St roundabout in Daylesford, to cheer and welcome Ballarat based refugee Neil Para, as he walked into town on day 2 of his epic 1000 km walk to the Prime Minister’s electoral office in Sydney.

Neil had set a cracking pace, arriving in Daylesford much earlier than expected.

Among the group of local people who were there to welcome and support Neil, was an Iranian refugee family who had travelled all the way from Melbourne.

Mayor, Cr. Brian Hood, gave a very moving welcome on behalf of Hepburn Shire. He commended Neil for taking on this incredible challenge and highlighted the fact that Neil was not just doing this for his own family but for all other refugees living in a similar intolerable situation.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Neil yesterday and welcoming him to our Shire,” said Cr Hood in a social media post. “He is a remarkable young man with an incredible story and has established deep connections and made considerable contributions to his Ballarat community. As an SES volunteer he was here in Trentham back in June 2021 during the Big Storm. I wish him and his young family every success.”

Neil also spoke briefly explaining why he was undertaking this incredible walk, also highlighting that he was doing this for all refugees living in limbo without permanent visas or a pathway to permanent residency. He particularly raised the plight of the children in these families who had no certainty for a secure future.

A crowd of supporters awaited Neil on his arrival in Daylesford. (Photo: Heather Mutimer)

After a short break Neil headed off to Glenlyon with local community member, Ken Warren, walking with him. Along the way Neil was stopped by people expressing their support, waving and tooting horns. Neil completed day 2 at the Glenlyon Store, having walked a total of 30 kms with at average speed of approximately 5.5 kms per hour.

If you would like to follow Neil’s journey, go to the Union of Australian Refugees Facebook page. There is also a petition you can sign to show your support.

Heather Mutimer is a local resident, a former Shire councillor and mayor and was a member of the former Daylesford Rural Australians for Refugees Daylesford (RARD).