The Great Walk of Peace

By Donna Carman

ORGANISERS are finalising the route and securing camping areas for the imminent Great Walk of Peace from Albany to Perth, scheduled to set off on September 29.

The event celebrates the 30th anniversary of The Great Walk from Denmark to Perth, to deliver a message to the government of the day about saving old-growth native forests.

L-r: Dave Rastrick, Sam Entwistle, Genesis, Jess Williams and Nicole Kimberley. PHOTO: KAYE HANDLEY

A total of more than 1000 people took part in that event, which culminated in a 500-strong parade up St Georges terrace to Parliament house, where the charter was presented to premier Peter Dowding.
Sam English Entwistle, aka ‘Fox’, never intended to organise this latest, logistically challenging event – and certainly not doing so mostly on his own.

Inspired by participating in protecting the Beeliar wetlands, Sam met people from the 1988 Great Walk and realised the power that it had given participants.

“I wanted to do something for the trees, to protect them,” Sam said. “I decided it was time to do The Great Walk again.

Planning meetings have been held in a range of locations, from the city to Lewin forest block, near Manjimup, where a blockade was set up in June by the WA Forest Alliance to prevent logging.

The campaign succeeded in having Lewin removed from the government’s logging schedule.

Tangible spinoffs from The Great Walk include events such as The Great Walk for Kids and other activities throughout the State, plus an annual summer camp.

L-r: Sam Entwistle, Dave Rastrick, Kaye Handley, Genesis, Jess Williams, Nicole Kimberley. PHOTO: KAYE HANDLEY

Arguably, the most important but less tangible spinoffs are the large numbers of people who have made long-term commitments to care for the environment, and the creation of myriad social networks.

In 1988 south coast resident Jennifer Barter made time in her tight schedule running a small business to spend a few days with The Great Walk near her home, and then during the final section into Perth.

“I remember walking with my kids into Shannon,” said Jen. “It felt like being part of something we thought would create change.”

Like its progenitor, the Great Walk of Peace walk is not a single, marathon event, but a mix of many shorter walks over the 900-plus kilometres of the route.

With a primary goal of coming together with a unified vision to protect our forests and natural environment, the Walk is equally about creating a structure “to support each other while surrounded by nature, and to learn, step up and face challenges,” Sam said.

“The focus is on environment, community building and self development.”

A concert is planned for the Walk’s arrival in Perth around December 13.

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