This man plans to walk 1,000km from Ballarat to Sydney. Here's why
- A Tamil refugee in regional Victoria is planning to walk to Sydney over 32 consecutive days.
- Neil Para has set himself a target of covering 30 kilometres a day.
- Para and his family arrived by boat in Australian waters in August 2012.
"We reached Malaysia, where we were found to be refugees by the UNHCR. But there is still no certainty for us in Malaysia, even though we were found to be refugees. So that is when we decided to get on a boat to Australia."
"I arrived with no English language skills. The time in detention scarred me," he said.
Surviving on community support
He volunteers with the State Emergency Service in the evenings, while his wife volunteers in aged care and for the local community centre.
Neil Para is pictured with his wife, Sugaa and their three daughters. He says he and his wife learned English through their volunteering efforts. Source: Supplied / Neil Para
Areas of concern included that the policies could result in asylum seeker families "being left without any source of income"; as well as limited access to legal advice and constrained review options at the tribunal.
Long-term uncertainty takes a toll
"The other difficulty is when the children turn 17, they probably won't be allowed to continue further study because of the regulations."
Neil and his family were among the up to 12,000 people who missed out.
Scholars at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law estimate the cost of the offshore processing policy in the six years to 2020 to be $8.3 billion. The centre found the annual cost of detaining a single asylum seeker in Papua New Guinea or Nauru amounted to $3.4 million.
Walking 'for freedom'
He said that reaction prompted him to launch the Union of Australian Refugees group and take on the walking project to draw attention to the plight of his family and those on bridging visas.
Neil Para says he aims to tally up 1,000 kilometres of walking and reach Sydney by early September. Source: Supplied / Peter Kervarec
Supporting him logistically will be groups like Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees and others in the network.
Of the 32,045 individuals in the Legacy Caseload group, 7,725 have had their cases closed either through refusal, cancellation or expiration.