Meet the father and son walking from Adelaide to Canberra to help refugees

Adelaide father Adam Richards and his son Ned are walking from Adelaide to Canberra to deliver a petition to Parliament. Source: Facebook/Aussie Heart

'I owe it to my children to fight for the Australia I love, and that's the Australia that gives people a fair go.'

A father and his 13-year old son are walking from Adelaide to Canberra to protest the Australian government's refugee policy and call for an end to offshore detention.  

Adelaide criminal lawyer Adam Richards and his son Ned set out from their home in Adelaide on December 28 and plan to reach Canberra by February 4 to deliver a petition to Parliament House that calls for the closure of the Manus and Nauru detention centres.

Adam said he was prompted to take action after having to explain why two refugees set themselves on fire last year to his son during their drive home from a primary school soccer match. 

"Ned said, 'Dad, what can be done about it?', and I just said 'nothing'," Adam tells SBS. "This look just came on his face, like, 'What do you mean you can do nothing? You're my father'. 

"I've always taught Ned that men stick up for women and children, and men stick up for what's right. So I really had to ask myself how the hell I could try and teach that to my son when I wasn't willing to live it myself."

Adam and Ned Richards
Adam and Ned Richards on the road to Canberra.
Facebook/Adam Richards

By the time they arrived home, Adam said he had decided to run for the Senate, just six weeks out from the election.

The father of three was not elected, and calls it "the most unsuccessful run for the senate probably in Australian political history".

But he wasn't content to give up his hopes of influencing Australian government policy, he said. And so the idea of walking across the country was born.

"I owe it to my children to fight for the Australia I love, and that's the Australia that gives people a fair go," Adam said.

"I don't say that everyone should be let in willy nilly, but by God they've got to be treated humanely. And so I do what I can." 

With the on-road support of their family friend Pat Hill, Adam and Ned are walking 30 kilometres a day in scorching heat, bandaging their feet to cope with blisters "the size of your heel".

They said they're getting up as early as 2.00am some days to make their deadline - documenting their travels on their Facebook page.

"On the really hot days recently we started at two in the morning and finished about 11.00pm that night.

"You have to break it up during the hottest hours," Adam tells SBS from the road near Hay in south western NSW. 

"Normally I've got a 4.00am start and I walk through to about one in the afternoon. And then a few extra hours - anywhere between one and three - at night.

"For a fat middle-aged man, let's just say it was a rude awakening - and I trained pretty hard for it."

Ned, who is due to start high school at the end of the month, said the epic walk has made him feel "proud, tired and sore - but mainly proud" to stand up for something he believes in.

"My step-brother and my step-sister are just a little bit older than the two people who set themselves alight, so I kind of pictured them, and it made me feel a bit sad," Ned said.

"I thought, 'why would the government be doing this? The government are good people'. I knew the camps were a bad place, but I didn't know they were that bad."

Pat Hill tends to Ned Richards' blistered feet.
Pat Hill tends to Ned Richards' blistered feet.
Facebook/Adam Richards

Spending his school holidays away from his mother and friends back in Adelaide has been tough, he said, as has missing out on playing cricket.

But he and his father have kept their spirits up by joking around and counting the flies they swallow, and the journey has strengthened his respect for his dad, Ned said. 

"He's like a hero. He's pretty awesome.

"He's always creaking around, and getting up sore. But he's doing a good thing."

Adam and Ned have set up a Go Fund Me page and are hoping to raise $5000 to help cover the costs of their trip. Anything extra will go to charities directly related to Manus and Nauru.

They are collecting signatures for the petition along the way, and on February 4 they will meet at Mint Oval on Adelaide Avenue in Canberra where they said they would make a "symbolic" boat which they will walk up to Parliament House. 

"Since our politicians are so scared of boats and people in them we figured the sight of us will terrify the hell out of them.

"So we're going to take a symbolic boat to Canberra, and we hope other people might join us."


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