7. The Nullarbor Kids
After weeks of prayer about how to best do it, they decided that some of them would attempt to walk across the Nullarbor Plain, from Port Augusta, South Australia, to Norseman, Western Australia, without taking any food, water, money, radio, or even a change of clothes. If their attempt was going to have the impact that they were hoping for, it would need the support of the media. But how could they get around the media ban in Sydney?
The youngest members of the group decided to do the walk, with no reference to older leaders. A 15-year old girl was chosen to be their chief spokesperson. She started by telephoning an Adelaide newspaper and stating simply that such a walk was being planned, and that they would give names and dates later. This low-key press release resulted in a small article in the Adelaide News, on Friday, April 26, 1985. That article whetted the appetite of media around Australia.
The next day the 15-year-old contacted a reporter from the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney, offering an exclusive picture of the walkers training at an oval in Petersham. Once again, names were not divulged. But the newspaper could not resist publishing the picture. At the same time, a notice was sent to all the media in Sydney, stating that the walkers would meet the press in Hyde Park, Sydney on the following Tuesday (April 30).
A representative from Good Morning Australia telephoned to see if they could jump the gun on the the others by interviewing two of the walkers on the morning of the park press conference. Two of the walkers agreed, and the interview started a ball rolling that was not likely to stop even if the Rappville Christian connection had been discovered. At the interview in the park, no one seemed to suspect a connection, and reports went out from that meeting to wire services all over the world.
Even if the link had been discovered by that time, it may not have been enough to stop the Sydney media, because their primary interest seemed to be in getting a picture of the walkers freezing, starving, or in some other way being totally humiliated and forced to admit that their faith was misguided.
But such a story never eventuated. The actual walk started on Monday, May 6. Day after day, for eight long weeks, reports came back to the news desks of Australia that the walkers were receiving the miraculous provision that they had anticipated. Skeptical reporters took it in turns to walk with the young people, to see for themselves just how they were surviving, and one by one they were won over by the genuine faith and honest love that they encountered.
Toward the end of the walk, some sections of the media were expressing outright anger at having been tricked into giving the group coverage. The reason for this was that it became apparent that the publicity which they had provided had alerted the world to the walk, and caused many people driving across the Nullarbor to be on the lookout for the walkers. Such people would stop and give the walkers food and drink whenever they spotted them. Although the walkers had no more expected this than did the media itself when the walk began, they too admitted that God had, indeed, used the media to help them.
For about two weeks in the middle of the walk, the media succeeded in getting their act together sufficiently to leave the walkers completely on their own. There were no visits from reporters, and there was little or no coverage on TV or in the press. But it was too late. By the time the media had withdrawn its coverage, everyone driving across the Eyre Highway already knew that the walkers must be out there somewhere. They did not forget to look out for them.
When it became clear that the walkers were going to succeed, the media returned for the triumphal finish. A full-width front page picture in the Sun-Herald (Sydney) won a prize for best news photo of the year.
But the Nullarbor walk was just one of several ways that the Rappville Christians overcame the Sydney media ban.