If I could walk 500 miles... or at least 500km

Written by Kimberley Konisberry

If someone asked me whether I wanted to walk 520km, I would laugh before before going home to scrape the bottom of my Ben & Jerry's 500ml tub of ice-cream.But not Alfred.In actual fact, it would have been Alfred that was asking the others, trying to get them on board. Alfred would have been the guy I laughed at - if he even asked me to participate in the walk to begin with. Sorry Alfred, it's nothing personal.On the 30th of March, Alfred and his team are on a mission to walk 520km from Robe (in South Australia) to Bendigo (in Victoria). Whilst the team have personal interests for embarking on this journey - because in all honesty, what else would you call it apart from 'crazy' - they also want to use it as an opportunity to raise both awareness and funds for Free To Shine.Alfred, apart from being the husband of Deborah (one of Free To Shine's committed team members), has many things to fill his time. Alfred works as a freelance administrator in workers' compensation. When he isn't at work, Alfred is active in the garden and cheering on the Melbourne Football Club.


A pretty average guy, you may think - especially seeing as though he backs Melbourne in the AFL. But Alfred is more than your average Joe. As a finacial supporter of the WWF and sponsor of a girl with Free To Shine, Alfred is a guy looking beyond himself. He understands that life is all-inclusive, and is keen to deepen his understanding of everything around himself.

Cue the walk from Robe to Bendigo.

Alfred’s interest in Robe and the vast amount of history surrounding it, first came about back in the rock ‘n’ roll era of the ‘80s. Alfred was holidaying in Robe when he stumbled across a plaque erected in commemoration of the Chinese gold diggers’ journey from Robe to Bendigo. Already interested in history – especially that of the Gold Rush era – Alfred went on to investigate the details behind what he had found. In the years that followed, Alfred has only been spurred on by his Chinese heritage and love for history – deciding to complete the walk himself to learn more about the history of townships along the way and their relationship with the gold rush era.An unconventional history lesson:I don’t know about you all, but I think a 520km walk deserves a bit of background information. And I for one, was curious about what inspired Alfred to undertake such a hike (ha ha). So here it is:When Australia began to be colonized in the early-mid 19th century, the only people interested in coming here were the English and Irish. Sure, some other nations were interested in Australia, but England were sending their criminals here – so at the end of day, it seemed pretty unappealing.By the mid-late 19th century a discovery was made that saw Australia (especially Melbourne) incorporated into bedtime stories – gold. The Gold Rush era attracted millions of people across the world to Australia. During this time, the then British Empire felt themselves superior (foolishly) and introduced a tax for non-whites entering the country to search for gold (the Chinese).All Chinese entering the Port of Melbourne after 1856 were forced to pay 10 pounds each by the Colonial Government of Victoria. And whilst that doesn’t sound like much money, back in Ye Old Days it was. Most families arriving were poor and desperate to escape to better conditions – they didn’t have the money to spare, nor in some cases, to even give.So began the tradition of Chinese travelling to Robe in South Australia (where no such racial tax at this time existed) and then walking 520km to the gold fields of Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria.Yes, I know what you’re thinking. ‘’520km just to avoid paying 10 pounds? That’s a bit rough, isn’t it?”And the answer is yes – it was rough. Most of these Chinese had to work on farms along the way for food and shelter. And in some instances, they even settled on route. Whilst this was horrible at the time, it has created today’s burst of Chinese culture and heritage in some Australian towns.

Penola (Feb '16)

So… Chinese and Cambodia? What?As I mentioned earlier, these people walked 520km to avoid paying 10 pounds, and to hopefully find gold. They were poor, yet determined – and quite frankly had no other choice. The girls on Free To Shine’s program don’t always have a choice either.The Walk to Learn is a walk designed by Alfred and his team to learn about the history of the townships and their relationship with the gold rush era. It is to fulfil their interest in history, and reach a level of self-satisfaction. For students on Free To Shine’s sponsorship program however, the want and need to learn runs parallel with their inability to do so.Like the Chinese gold-diggers in the 1800s, the girls on Free To Shine’s program (and their families) all endure economic hardship and poverty-stricken conditions. This limits a family’s ability to afford their child’s education - which in the 21st century is unacceptable. Just as the Chinese were determined in their quest to better their lives, all the girls on Free To Shine’s program are determined to finish school in order to better their own. All of the girls want to learn – just like Alfred and his team – but in this instance they need some support in order to do so.Understanding this, Alfred generously decided that Walk to Learn should be a journey for both him and the girls in Cambodia. Walk to Learn will raise donations and sponsorships to support Free To Shine in their mission to equip children with the tools to keep them in school. By equipping these girls with an education, Free To Shine reduces the likelihood of her and family being targeted by sex traffickers.So take some time to think about all of this.Absorb it.And then get on board.By sponsoring Alfred and his Walk to Learn, you are helping him and Free To Shine set others on their own journey through education.

Alfred's Walk to Learn

On March the 30th, Alfred Tuet and his team will embark on a historical 520km walk from Robe (South Australia) to Bendigo (Victoria). Dubbed, 'Walk to Learn', the 16 day journey will see Alfred go beyond uncovering the historic mysteries left by the Chinese in the late 1800s.