Simple human kindness buoyed Glenn Richards on his unheralded 21-day journey from Melbourne to Canberra

Glenn Richards' solo walk from Melbourne to Canberra sparked many acts of kindness. Picture: Karleen Minney
Glenn Richards' solo walk from Melbourne to Canberra sparked many acts of kindness. Picture: Karleen Minney

Latter-day pilgrim Glenn Richards humbly described himself as "just a bloke who went for a walk".

It's a modest description from a self-effacing chap because his "walk" was hardly a stroll to the local shops; it was a journey that took 21 days and went 624 kilometres from Melbourne to Canberra.

Standing on the lawns of Parliament House on Tuesday, weathered and a little weary but in good spirits, he was still wearing the same battered pair of cheap trainers from when he set out in the heat of early January.

Far from being a well-organised, prepared journey, Mr Richards set out purposefully with no fanfare, no company, and wearing an old pair of shorts and a T-shirt. He carried a backpack, some essential supplies and a two-man tent.

And yet the further he walked, the more the word spread.

Defence forces veterans rights campaigner Glenn Maskell said he got a call from Mr Richards just a few days before he had set out from the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

"I'd never met Glenn [Richards] before; he just rang me out of the blue and said he was walking to Canberra to support our campaign," Mr Maskell said.

"I asked him when he was heading off and he said: 'probably tomorrow or the next day'.

Glenn Richards said his long journey had given much time to think, and reflect. Picture: Karleen Minney.

Glenn Richards said his long journey had given much time to think, and reflect. Picture: Karleen Minney.

"Well, I nearly dropped the phone."

By the time Mr Richards had got as far as the NSW border, a supporter base unexpectedly rallied behind him and his personal journey of reflection turned into a something much larger.

Along the way, he was touched by some simple and unexpected human kindnesses.

"There was one day early on when it was hot, I was getting thirsty and I saw something by the side of the road up ahead," he said.

"As I got closer, I couldn't believe it but there was this big, really cold bottle of water just sitting there.

"The weird thing is: for the life of me, I didn't see anyone stop and leave anything."

At night, he would pitch camp by the side of the road, wake up before dawn and do it all again. Truck drivers would offer him a lift, but he'd politely refuse.

"The truckies were great; they would radio ahead and tell each other what I was doing so I always got a toot of encouragement as I went along," he said.

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"One night I camped between the main train line and the highway. There were trucks and trains going each way all night, but I slept all right."

He said that the high rate of suicide within defence force ranks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and veterans let down by the government were stories which had touched him deeply and had provided the catalyst for his odyssey. He wants an independent royal commission into veterans' welfare.

"I'm just an ordinary civilian but these veterans put their lives on the line for all of us so we can live a free life," he said.

"When a person's service to their country is over and done, the country should look after them the way they looked after it. And it's not happening."

This story Man's solo Melbourne-to-Canberra walk highlights veterans' plight first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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