5 million steps to Canberra in silent protest

LONG WALK: Darwin man Ashok Alexander is walking 4000km from Darwin to Canberra, travelling light and camping on the roadside along the way. Photo: supplied

LONG WALK: Darwin man Ashok Alexander is walking 4000km from Darwin to Canberra, travelling light and camping on the roadside along the way. Photo: supplied

A small business owner from Darwin is journeying 4000 km through the Outback to Canberra and has just arrived in Mount Isa, on foot, alone. 

The Facebook page ‘5 Million Step Walk – Ashok Alexander’ is a daily blog of Ashok’s travels, which will take him through to September.

I like Australia, I like travelling in the Outback and I like walking. - Ashok Alexander.

He has raised $2000 via a GoFundMe page.

Ashok’s journey from Darwin is a silent protest against the federal government for what he says are extreme and unfair regulations for small business owners.

Ashok has owned his own business since he moved to Australia 20 years ago, and is hoping to bring awareness towards some of the challenges presented to small business owners.

Mr Alexander arrived in Mount Isa on Friday after the 661km journey from Tenant Creek, stopping at smaller towns along the way.  

He left town for Cloncurry on Tuesday at 7am still with a long way to go to the capital.

For more on Ashok’s story, visit his blog ‘5 Million Steps Walk - Ashok Alexander’ on Facebook.

What are you protesting, Ashok?

“I am calling it a silent protest – I was doing a business for a while, almost 15 years, and I got a business in Darwin then had an issue, it was a 457 rule, and I had to close the business.

“I don’t want it to sound negative… But I feel the government came down quite heavy on this issue. It turned into a $430,000 problem.

I understand why you might think the business is wrong, but why again go that far to really make me zero? I mean that’s my 20 years of work. I didn’t do that bad. - Ashok Alexander.

“I had to close the business and personally it was very heavy on me, and my wife and kids.

“I believe it’s getting harder and harder for small businesses because there are a lot of regulations and it’s not always clear or properly understood by business owners.

“There’s almost like a thousand volumes of rules for businesses. And the business is considered to be ignoring the rules. 

"I cannot say to the court that I didn’t read the law. Because I’m running the business, it is assumed that I should know all the laws.

Ashok says while he appreciates the law is the law, context should be taken into account.

“I understand why you might think the business is wrong, but why again go that far to really make me zero? I mean that’s my 20 years of work. I didn’t do that bad,” Ashok said.

Ashok and his wife plan to write a book on the business story behind the 5 Million Steps walk.

“It takes a lot more explanation, so it’s very hard for people to see how a business person feels. 

The company went into liquidation to pay $430,000 in fines, and Ashok has been fined more than $80,000 personally, on top of his $159,000 in legal fees. 

Why walk, and why so far?

“This walk is helping me to get a bit of space, and mourn. 

“Physically I can improve health-wise, because my health was also getting affected,” Ashok said. 

Ashok and his wife are keen walkers already, and would walk 5km for enjoyment most days in Darwin.

“I like Australia, I like travelling in the Outback and I like walking,” Ashok said.

This is Ashok’s first attempt at such a great distance, roughly 4000km and 5-million steps.

Most of the journey takes place on remote roads in the Outback, and Ashok says it is testing his physical and mental resilience.

“This is altogether a vastly different challenge to being a Company Director.

“I wouldn’t have done this walk unless this has really hurt badly, not only for me but my family,” Ashok said.

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