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(generated from captions) 2004 to highlight problems in

indigenous communities.

As the sun sets on another

scorching day in Mildura, 3,000

opera lovers are settling themselves on

themselves on the banks of the

Murray, basking in the cool of

the evening and the beautiful

strains of Gilbert and

Sullivan.

(Sings) # Oh is there not one maiden breast

# Which does not feel the...

# Tenor David Hobson and

soprano marina Prior are the headline acts. Sharing the

billing is a novice making his

operatic stage debut. You

right? Nervous. No, you're not.

No way. This is probably one

of the scariest things I've

done. It's quite

daunting. Would you welcome Michael Long. Former AFL

champion, Michael Long, is

being accompanied today by a

50-piece orchestra and a

100-voice choir. They're

sharing this part of his

journey which began just over

three years ago.

(Sings) # That a young man

# He started walking along needs

# But gone alone for too long

# They there could be no rest

# Song for Michael came

together in the kitchen of long

Aitken. time friend composer Chris

(Sings) # Come dream with me

# Walk with me

# Come and talk with me # The

lyrics were inspired by Michael

Long's walk from Melbourne to

Canberra in late 2004 to draw

national attention to the

problems confronting indigenous

Australians. Ultimately forcing

a meeting with then prime

minister John Howard. The Long

walk is really about people

coming together and if you

can't come together you can't

actually talk and take the next

step. So that was the first

step for us, and asking the

Prime Minister where was the

love for Aboriginal people.

That love for his people and a

burning anger spurred the

retired footballer into action. I'm sick of going to

too many funerals. I've been

back in Darwin for two years

and I've been to so many

funerals. It's just out of

control. It's got to

change. It touches your

father, your brothers, your

nephews, your uncles, we're all

part of the statistics and the

problems and the health and

education and jobs. We're a

part of that. And especially

the life expectancy it's

suppose to be the age of 48, so

realistically I haven't got

long to go. Since football, he

could have just walked away and

gone off and lived his own life

but for a man like that to, you

know, take on a whole role for

indigenous and non- indigenous

people outside of his sporting

career, I think is absolutely

wonderful. He has the capacity

to bring people together just

because of the person he is and

way he is. You know, he's a

humble human being and with

much integrity. Michael Long's

bravery in tackling issues head

on was already well known.

During his football career with

Essendon, this quietly spoken

man from the Tiwi Islands went

public after an opponent made

racist taunts. He copped plenty

of flak but changed the culture

of football. I got letters of

you read this mail you're going

to be dead in seven days. There

were letters like that. I think sometimes you've got to make a

stand and the AFL bless them,

everyone's followed what

they've done. They've

implemented in other

something like codes. Everybody can relate to

something like that, you

himself, Chris Aitken know. A former AFL player

discovered his friend wasn't

only a brilliantly talented

(Sings) # Every footballer.

(Sings) # Every night I hope

and pray # I got my guitar out

and he said do you know Dream

Lover. And I said yeah, I know

that song.

(Sings) # I want a dream lover

# I listened to his voice and I

thought gee, you know, you have a special voice, you've got a

gift there. My mum and dad were

part of the stolen generation

and grew up on a Catholic

mission. So music was very much

a part of the every day life.

My dad plays guitar, all our

unkms played guitar so every

time there was a barbecue or

there would be guitars playing.

I love Slim Dusty. Everyone

loves Slim Dusty. It's a big

leap from strumming a Slim Dusty song on his guitar Dusty song on his guitar to

this first rehearsal with a 50-piece orchestra. Please

welcome Michael Long. But the

organiser of the opera concert says after he heard the song he

had to find a way to include it

on the program.

(Sings) # I have a quiet

feeling # It's not like someone

tried to put on a special little performance to impress.

He's doing it because he feels

it and it's very, very

moving. My father's from north

of Alice Springs. The song has

become an anthem of sorts for

the Long Walk Foundation set up

by Michael Long to continue the

work he started with the walk

to Canberra. I see in the

future if we don't stand up now

we're not going to change

anything, you know, and so -

classroom, it starts with our and it starts from the

difference and he's he's youth. He wants to make a

already done that and he will

continue to do that. It's just

a few hours before Michael Long

is due on stage and he's trying

to calm the nerves. Yeah, well

I played in front of 80,000,

90,000-odd people and that was

easier than stepping out in

front of an orchestra and, you

know, and singing, you know, because it's a totally

different pressure. At least if

I make a mistake there's the

other 17 guys to back me up, I can blame them.

(Sings) # Walk with me

# Come and talk with me # Set your spirit free

# Come dream with me # I think

he's got a good message for all

people, no matter where they

come from or what colour they.

Are It really said, I think,

what many of ution are feeling.

I thought it was amaze, the

wording was - gave me goose

bumps. I was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. THEME MUSIC what he wanted to do. that Dad was doing and so we accepted his death He was an honourable soldier, that could have happened. in terms of that was something on the battlefield in Vietnam 'Major Peter Badcoe died on 7 April, 1967. South Vietnamese troops, from firing on his Victoria Cross winners, He reacted, like most as they see it at that time, they react to the situation and nobody will understand why. two other heroic deeds, 'The award, which also acknowledged was presented to his family a few months after his death. His eldest daughter, Carey Badcoe, was just ten years old.' We just thought he was invincible, and so I think we were less prepared 'Now, more than 40 years later, Carey Badcoe is making a pilgrimage to the place where her father died.' To be able to see and perhaps even talk to people who were there at the time, I think will just be wonderful and will give me a sense of closeness, I hope, to the life that he has living. an elite group of military men whose job was to train and advise the South Vietnamese troops.' So, what was he like? I think it's well known he didn't smoke, didn't drink, he didn't swear much, either. 'Geoff Annett also served in Vietnam Training Team. He was based in Hue, It didn't take long before Badcoe's reputation as a fearless, if not reckless, fighter, became widespread.' We were in Quang Tri and there was a phone call, and one of the Americans got the phone call, and he said, "There's been some action done in Hue, and there's a mad Australian down there running around with a red beret." And I says, "There's no Australians running around with red berets." Oh, yes, it could be Major Badcoe." I bought the child's story and we knew he was brave, it was mainly about his concerns about civilians and trying to look after the children. 'For personal reasons, the Badcoe family has decided to sell Peter Badcoe's Victoria Cross and his many other medals, as well as the family letters

he sent back from Vietnam. Over the past few months, Carey Badcoe has been painstakingly transcribing more than 40 of those letters, written by her father.' "Tuesday morning, 7 February, 1967. My darling girls, I'm tired, cranky, and thoroughly bummed off, so I shouldn't be writing, but it's been three or four days since I last wrote..." 'In this letter, Peter Badcoe described a battle "The we were ordered back as they were going to put in an air strike. I pleaded with the useless slobs not to, as it was an extremely friendly village." 'As part of her journey to Vietnam, Carey Badcoe is visiting that village of Cia, which was saturated in napalm despite her father's pleas. A local guide, Phuong Tran, has arranged a meeting with his parents, who live in the village and still remember that February day.' (SPEAKS VIETNAMESE) right here, in 1967, as well. (SPEAKS VIETNAMESE) A big bomb exploded on the other side. 'They remember it as a relatively early attack, the remembered the attack coming through near the church, and actually where they took cover, and they pointed You can see the bullet holes all over it. 'The next day, he writes, he could hardly talk he was so upset, houses had been burned, civilians had died, and there'd been no VC causalities that were apparent, and he was just so frustrated and so upset at the action I had always tried to imagine what it'd be like. Peter Badcoe wrote what would "Only 108 days to go, by the time you get this it will be less than 100, my darling. I miss you and the little girls more than I can ever tell you, and I'm looking forward so very much to our holiday together." 'After sending off that letter, Peter Badcoe heard a South Vietnamese army unit was in trouble in a hamlet north of Hue. Four decades along, and Carey Badcoe is travelling along the same road that led her father towards his final battle.' I was kind of shocked because it was so broad and so open, and I just couldn't imagine how you could... how he could have fought there without being very exposed. This, meet Liem. 'Through Phuong Tran, Carey Badcoe meets the village leader, The time is about 3pm, 'Incredibly, after 41 years, that killed Peter Badcoe. But there was one detail that proved beyond doubt Carey Badcoe had come to the right place.' And he said that he had a red cap. He always had the hat, The red cap was the thing, because that was so distinctive, and then he said, "Your father was very, very handsome." It was just, it was really, really lovely, just hearing that. 'To her surprise, Carey Badcoe also discovered that the local Vietnamese had built a shrine to her father, and the mothers and children who also died in battle on that day.' that there's this incredibly poignant acknowledgement of him. 'For Carey Badcoe, the decision to sell her father's medals began a journey of discovery, she genuinely regards as a hero.' that you just do from adrenaline, and sometimes, yeah, it's just a reaction to a situation, but I feel like the whole person was what made him a hero. Closed Captions by CSI * THEME MUSIC the heart and soul of the book that took you something like seven years to write, but what for you is the essence of this book? Oh, I think, um, I think I'm trying to write about the vulnerability of youth. until to get into middle age were you become vulnerable in a different, but strangely recognisable way. So, yeah... Yeah, I think so. I think when you get to middle age and you understand how you've got to be who you are and the close scrapes that you've managed to survive. There's a lot of risk-taking in the book. It is about risk-taking, isn't it? Yeah, I think that's just partly about being bored - living in the country, being bored, having to manufacture your own culture in a way and manufacturing your own challenges. In a way, holding your breath, or taking risks, or flirting with danger is just another way for a young to feel alive. It's not just a teenager's feeling, is it? whose young, wife who can't take the risks of aerial skiing anymore because of a damaged knee, so she takes them in bed with 15-year-old Pikelet. And to quote from Pikelet "The last sucking bottle of consciousness the rise and gorge of pelages, delicious ricochet of sparks You get to a point where all that stands between you and oblivion the last desperate jerks of your system trying to restart itself. You feel exalted, invincible, angelic because you're totally poisoned. Inside it's great, it feels brilliant, but on the outside it's squalor beyond imagining." Can you put that into context for those who haven't yet had the chance to read the book.

Well, it's a tough call. I suppose in a way, part of the book is about obsession and about kind of an addiction to adrenaline. You get to a point where people flirt with danger to the point where they're in love with death. They think they're cheating death, but eventually, if they're smart they realise that death is stalking them. So, these boys are involved in this big wave, risk-taking stuff an unequal relationship with an older person. and still addicted to fear and danger, that comes out in a kind of an erotic obsession for her. I guess it's about the ways in which people can, or can't let go of just that addiction to adrenalin. In a way, even though this book seems like a coming of age story it's about a middle aged man recovering from an addiction and that is an addiction to adrenalin. And he's just got by by the skin of his teeth and he's just holding himself together in a way that an addict is depending, regardless of what substance or attitude they're addicted to, they're never out of the woods.

A wise recovering addict always knows the need to manage themselves and they live perhaps a more burdensomely self-aware life than the rest of us. after Dirt Music and pulled out pad to start on what ultimately became Breath, did you have much idea at all where those pencils were going to take you? No. In fact, this book was written by accident. I mean, I was in the middle of another book when I started this and my method of problem-solving is avoidance, so I just bolted from this book, I bailed out and went to do something else just to save myself from going crazy because I realised that the book that I was in wasn't working, how to make it work and I knew that if I stayed and tried to solve the problem, then I'd probably fall to bits. So, I just started, It was just to comfort myself. It gave me a day's work. Took my mind of it. It became a few pages and the next day I did it again did it again, and within a year or so I was in another book and it was going OK Hopefully I'll go back and my absence from that book will have fixed up all the problems. It's in your own words a very seat of the pants, unpredictable existence. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. You know, you're pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Sometimes you hope there's a rabbit in the hat and other times you just hope you've got a hat. Well, that explains the seven year cycle. It doesn't mean you spend seven years on one book, but from The Riders to Dirt music, seven years and then another seven to Breath. I know you've paused for other work on the way through, but seven years for a finished major fiction to finished major fiction is a long time. Yeah, and I'm getting older. I used to be able to turn them around in a year. I think I did ten in my 20s. But, you know, I was young and full of piss and vinegar and broke and afraid of the landlord. But as you get older you just can't live like that. Well, I can't live like that. I remember hearing once that you'd finished Dirt Music and you were packaging it up to send off to the publisher and you had this tormented night. Yeah, I hated it. Woke up the next morning, unpacked the book and completely rewrote it. I don't know, but essentially rewrote it in 55 days. I get the sense it wasn't that painful with Breath. No, it wasn't at all. Really I think the experience of Dirt Music taught me that, you know, the book that I was engaged in, which I felt wasn't quite working, I simply wasn't going to take myself to the brink in the same way as it happened in Dirt Music. It's just a damn book. So I went and did something else and I enjoyed myself. So I didn't, I wasn't tortured all the way through Breath but I was aware of the fact that it was my get out of jail free card. How did you feel when packed Breath up to send to the publisher? Nervous. I didn't know if it was any good. I think you pretty much say that about all your books, don't you? Yeah, and I think that's true. You don't know if they're any good. You know bits are good, you know sentences or paragraphs that you're confident about but how could you know? And then you've got people in your ear saying this, saying that and you know that there's a body of criticism out there or an attitude to you that you can't do anything about. So you've been writing for about 30 years now, what kind of a journey has it been? Can you look back and measure your work? Is there a pattern that's emerged? Probably. I think I realise now that, and I probably did about 10 years ago, wasn't a series of discrete novels and stories. Everything's related to everything else and I was essentially writing an imaginary world that all of these people belonged to get together, they knew each other, they went to school with each other So it was, and I kind of like that. Once I surrendered to that idea that there was this tapestry of characters which are very much connected to a place, the South Coast of Western Australia, I enjoyed that. I felt that sort of empowered me and emboldened me to just go back over again to the same place because you've either got to be stubborn or brave to just revisit the same place. Have you ever had characters or the ghost of characters wanting to intrude on another book? Happens all the time. I've got characters who are in this book who were in my earlier novels, I've got characters in this book who are in my children's books. from another set, if you like, and as a writer, you know, once you've lived a book it's an experience. You know that it's imaginative experience but it is an experience, you have lived it and that's what you know, another experience that they'll remember, that they dream about and every now and again have to think, "Hang on, did this happen to me or was it in so and so's book?"