It’s not every day that you meet someone who inspires you as much as Ivor Houston, the 22-year from the Blue Mountains, who decided to walk across Australia to raise money for refugees and asylum seekers.
His story began a few years ago when he met a friend in India, and it sparked in him this desire to walk across Australia at the same time his friend would walk across America. But it wasn’t until Ivor’s family welcomed a family of refugees from Malaysia, that Ivor knew that he wanted to do this walk to raise money for others.
“The idea really kicked off when my family opened their house to a refugee family that live with us,” he explains, “they’ve lived with us for two years now, and they’ve really become my family. I’ve got an extra brother and sister because of it, they’re a family of four. Just seeing their situation, hearing their stories and hearing what they had to go through made me want to give back.”
Ivor walked an incredible 4,000km from Perth to Sydney starting in May 2021 and arriving at Bondi Beach on 28th November. Coast to coast, Ivor started his trip with a swim in the Indian Ocean before walking, camping and eating roadside through WA, SA and NSW, where he sealed his journey with a dip in the Pacific Ocean.
Ivor defied all odds and battled terribly tough conditions, walking across the vast plains of the Nullabor, sleeping on the side of the road in his one-man tent and eating tinned and dried food. He even says that at times he really questioned why he had taken the trip on at all.
But he humbly concedes that his trip felt vastly different to the trip a refugee may have to make.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think because it’s been six months, but it is really crazy that I can walk 4,000km across the country and not be fleeing gunfire, or not be able to leave my house without fear of persecution and imprisonment just because of what I believe in or what my religion is or whatever it is.”
For Ivor, it’s really not about the adventure that he has been on, but more about highlighting the journey that thousands face in far more dangerous conditions every day.
“It’s just crazy that I’m a 22-year-old that can freely walk 4,000km across the earth and you know, it’s Australia and it’s a free country, but if you think about all the other countries across the world, or all the other amount of spaces where there’s so much violence and so much trouble and conflict going on, it’s really crazy that I can just freely walk 4,000km and feel safe. Especially on the Nullabor — I’m incredibly grateful for the kind of community, the outback community that banded together to help me out. If I ever felt in danger — thank goodness I never really did — but I could always pull over a car and ask for help and I knew that.“
Of course, this is not always the case for many refugees and asylum seekers and Ivor has done a beautiful job of reminding us how important it is to remember how difficult life can be for those who find themselves caught up in the devastating effects of war or natural disaster.
Ivor chose to raise money for both the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and Act for Peace and so far has raised $26,220, allowing supporters to follow his incredible journey via his website On Foot Across Australia, which he set up to allow people to follow his location each day.
We met Ivor at the finish line along with a gathering of his family and friends for what was a very emotional morning where there were many gathered to celebrate his journey and achievements. However, for Ivor, it was very difficult to accept any sort of praise for his experience.
I find it so hard to accept someone’s recognition and praise for what I have done. Yes, it’s a long way but what these guys standing right here have gone through — it’s nothing what I have gone through [comparatively].
For his last 10km, Ivor was joined by some refugees from Afghanistan who walked with him to the finish line. They shared their stories with him for the last leg of his journey.
“The stories that Nasim and Ali told me as they walked the last 10km with me of those fleeing Afghanistan and the struggles that they went through – here I was thinking I just walked km, yes it’s far, but thinking about the rough times I had and then expecting a crowd and an applause — it just didn’t make sense and it never will.“
“What you guys go through on a daily basis… the things that can happen to you on the streets and you can’t defend yourself. The fear of the police and the fear of getting in trouble; there’s no guarantee or certainty or that you can stay if things go wrong. It’s ridiculous that I get all this praise and I just feel like this walk for me is really just a medium to highlight what you guys have to go through.“
Ivor was emotional at the finish line as were the collection of family, friends and supporters. “I’m so privileged to even have the opportunity to dream so big to say that I can walk across Australia,” he said, “it’s so mammoth to say that I can walk across Australia,” he said.
It has been incredible to watch Ivor’s journey of bravery and humility and we are so incredibly grateful he has chosen to stand in solidarity with refugees and other displaced people. Thank you Ivor, for sharing your journey with us. You are a true inspiration.