The ultramarathon runner says Indigenous Australians have been here for 65,000 years and if they don't deserve to be recognised in the Constitution, who does?
Pat Farmer has always believed to win the prize, you must push your body to the limit and stay the distance. On Wednesday, Farmer arrived at Uluru, completing his extraordinary Run for the Voice across every Australian state, inspired by his passion for constitutional recognition and better treatment of Australia's Indigenous population — and his love of running.
In his decorated career, the former Federal politician and ultramarathon runner has set many records — he is the only man to run from the North to the South Pole "continuously" — and in 1999 he covered close to 15,000 kms in 191 days to raise awareness of Australia's Centenary of Federation. But this journey across Australia in support of the Voice has been his most important yet.
"They've been here for 65,000 years ... if they don't deserve to be recognised in the Constitution, who does?" Farmer asked, speaking to Newsworthy by phone Sunday night from the side of the Lasseter Highway, 157 kms east of Uluru.
"It is about evening the playing field. It's about closing the gap and it's about making sure that all Australians have access to simple things like clean sanitary conditions, clean drinking water, good education, infrastructure in their communities and opportunities for a say in their own future. And that's what the Voice is all about."
When Farmer and his team arrived in Uluru on Wednesday, three days before the referendum vote, he had run close to 14,000 kms. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was there to greet him.
The end of the run was fitting, Uluru is a deeply significant location for Indigenous communities and for the wider Australian national identity. It is also where the Uluru Statement from the Heart, from which the Voice initiative comes, was signed in 2017.
"I'd like to call it the spiritual heart of the country at Uluru. It's the centre of the whole nation. I couldn't think of a better place to be finishing it," Farmer said. "Certainly, to use that as my acknowledgement of the people that live there and have lived there, as I said, for 65,000 years."
'There hasn't been one person that I've met on the road, even [those who said] 'I'm voting no', that can agree the system that is in place at the moment works.'
Pat Farmer on the final stretch of his close to 14,000 km journey with just 157 kms left to run to Uluru.INSTAGRAM/PATFARMERATHLETE
Since starting his run in April in Hobart, he has run across Tasmania, flown to Perth, and made his way across mainland Australia. He has visited every state and territory during his six-month journey, meeting a wide range of people along the way.
"I'll have people stop on the side of the road, everything from truck drivers through to people that are on holidays through to people who have gone out of their way to seek me out," Farmer said.
"In a lot of cases they pull over and say 'g'day', ask me a few questions about the Voice and things like that. Other people are interested from an athletic point of view as runners themselves, they'll run a kilometre with me or sometimes only just get a selfie."
"I think a lot of people realise the significance of this event ... it's actually a history-making event."
Every location Pat Farmer has covered on his Run for the Voice GOOGLE MAPS/runforthevoice.com
Over the course of his run, Farmer has had the opportunity to speak at events, debate and educate groups as he travelled across the country. He believes the ground he has covered in distance and in conversation has nurtured understanding in diverse groups of Australians who have connected with him. He believes he has found common ground with all sides of the campaign, particularly about the status of our Indigenous population and need for change.
"There hasn't been one person that I've met on the road, even the people that have come up to me and said right from the start 'I'm voting no', that can agree that the system that is in place at the moment works," he said.
"Every single person agrees that there is a problem with the system. There is a great divide between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' ... and the people that 'have not', at the most extreme level, are our Indigenous people."
As a former Liberal politician, Farmer has found it frustrating to see the stance the Liberal Party has taken on the Voice, which he sees as a human rights issue above anything else. In April, the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, declared the Liberal Party would oppose the referendum and actively campaign against it. Farmer opposes the politicisation of the Voice by his party and former colleagues.
"I've always been a person that has put the people before the party ... a good politician should. That's where their allegiance should lie," he said. "There should be a full range of views and opinions and ideas, but instead when they play the party-political line there are only two views basically.
"There's a government and there's an opposition and that's about it, and it's so wrong to do that with a human rights issue like this.
"I'm disgusted with the Coalition for making this a political issue."
"Julian Leeser would know more about the Constitution than almost any other Australian and he wanted to support a yes vote," Farmer said of the former shadow attorney-general and shadow minister for Indigenous affairs who resigned from the shadow cabinet over the Liberals' Voice stance.
Farmer has used his past runs to raise money for charity and awareness for causes. "This was never going to be and was never planned to be a record-breaking run, or a run about Pat Farmer," he said. "I was always just the thread that was trying to bring the communities together under a shield of reason around this most important historical event."
After running almost 80 kms each day, Farmer said he felt fulfilled by the journey he has undertaken and the connections he has formed. "I've been able to inform people in communities," he said. "I've been able to give them the information that they need to make an informed decision. And so for that, I feel very satisfied, because that's my job.
"I've done everything in my power as far as running is concerned."
Prime Minister Albanese, speaking on Instagram Wednesday, said: "Back in 2017, Indigenous Australians gathered [at Uluru] to call for a Voice to get better outcomes. 'We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.' This is the invitation written in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Pat has carried this invitation of unity and hope around the country, now it's over to Australians to accept it."
Over the past six months, Pat Farmer has run his heart out to spread the message of why the Voice matters. In three days, Australians will decide whether to recognise Indigenous Australians, custodians of our land for 65,000 years, in modern Australia's founding document.