It took nearly a year and roughly seven million steps for Clinton Pryor to reach the prime minister’s courtyard at Parliament House.
However there was little time to celebrate the indigenous activist’s pilgrimage from Perth when a meeting with Malcolm Turnbull soon turned tense on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old, joined by indigenous elders, presented a list of demands that included plotting a path to a treaty, an investigation into family and child services, disbanding the Aboriginal Advisory Council and abolishing cashless welfare management cards.
Mr Turnbull listened to the demands but defended some of his government’s policies, including the welfare cards, saying indigenous leaders in Kalgoorlie had spoken strongly in favour of them.
“They are all about protecting children and families,” the prime minister said.
That remark prompted an angry response from the group who said those Mr Turnbull had spoken with did not reflect the views of the entire community.
“You cannot get one token spokesperson for the community and punish the entire community,” Roxley Foley said.
Mr Pryor did not think the prime minister had absorbed the group’s concerns.
“Everything we said seemed to fall on deaf ears,” he said after the meeting.
Mr Pryor set off from Perth last September for a near-6000km journey by foot to Canberra to promote indigenous rights.
After arriving in the nation’s capital on Saturday he presented his list of demands to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Tuesday.
Mr Shorten indicated he did not support all the proposals, but mentioned markers of indigenous disadvantage, including incarceration rates and the number of children being taken from their parents.