Indigenous dancer silhouetted against the sky at Armagh, launch of Our Uluru Response. / Credit: Reuben Daaman

Launch of Our Uluru Response

A trustbuilding project supporting the Uluru Statement From the Heart

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

‘Our Uluru Response’ is officially launched!

From the opening clap of the clapsticks, to keyote speaker and activist Thomas Mayor’s recitation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart—entirely by heart—the evening was full of moments to remember. More than 100 people joined us for the launch on Friday evening, 19 March, at Armagh in Melbourne. Hundreds more joined us on Zoom from as far afield as America, Africa and Europe. To date, there have been more than 2,600 views of the live stream on Facebook.

Our Uluru Response is a three-year project in partnership with Australia's First Nations. The project is responding to the call of the Uluru Statement to walk with First Nations people 'in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.' The project is holding national education forums, visits, and facilitated conversations for truth telling and truth hearing about Australia's Indigenous past and present.

Scroll through to see highlights of the launch, by photographers Alex Childs, Eike Zeller, and Reuben Daaman.

  • Words of welcome by Executive Officer Margaret Hepworth and Board member Mike Brown
  • A Smoking Ceremony led by David Tournier of the Boon Wurrung Foundation, representing the First Peoples of Port Philip and Westernport Bays and Southeast Victoria
  • Didgeridoo and dance performances by Amos Roach and friends
  • Laying of a memorial plaque by Barbara Burns, grand-daughter of early Aboriginal rights campaigner Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker. The plaque marks the spot where the seed of a tree, now grown, was planted 44 years ago by Margaret and her friend Honor Thwaites, a white woman.
  • Reading of a poem by Julia Thwaites, Honor’s grand-daughter. The poem, Yarmuk, was written by Michael Thwaites, Julia’s grandfather and Honor’s late husband, to commemorate the passing of Margaret Tucker’s mother, buried at Cummeragunja in 1959. 
  • Memories of Uncle William Cooper and the Cummeragunja Walkoff, by Aboriginal elder Uncle Colin Walker. The Cummeragunja Walkoff in 1939 was the first mass strike by Aboriginal Australians, and was undertaken to protest against the poor living conditions on the Aboriginal mission. 
  • Further remarks on the Cummeragunja Walkoff and other remarks by Margaret Tucker’s great-nephew, Uncle Herb Patton, and playing of music on the gum leaf!
  • Remarks by Federal Liberal MP for Higgins, Dr Katie Allen
  • Keynote speech by Torres Strait Islander and rights campaigner Thomas Mayor on the Uluru Statement of the Heart


Welcome and Smoking Ceremony

Mike Brown, Board member, and Margaret Hepworth, Executive Officer, IofC Australia, at the opening of the 19 March launch of Our Uluru Response. / Credit: Eike ZellerSmoking ceremony at Armagh to launch Our Uluru Response / Credit: Eike Zeller

David Tournier of the Boon Wurrung Foundation welcomes all to the Smoking Ceremony with the greeting 'Wominjeka'—'come with purpose.' / Credit: Eike Zeller

Smoking ceremony at Armagh to launch Our Uluru Response, a trustbuilding project with First Nations / Credit: Reuben Daaman

Musician Amos Roach on the didgeridoo. / Credit: Alex Childs

An Indigenous dancer at Armagh for the launch of Our Uluru Response trust building project. / Credit: Eike ZellerIndigenous dancers lead the crowd at the launch of Our Uluru Response at Armagh. / Credit: Eike Zeller


Learning to dance, led by Archie Roach and friends. / Credit: Alex Childs

Hear the opening music

Plaque laying and poetry reading

Barbara Burns laid a plaque at the foot of a tree planted 44 years ago by her grandmother Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker, an early campaigner for Aboriginal rights. The seed, planted by Margaret with her friend Honor Thwaites, a white woman, symbolised for them the racial harmony that could exist in Australia, if everyone would take the steps to make it so. Barbara and her brother Selwyn composed the words on the plaque: 'There is more to life than racism, bitterness and unkindness. Let us look up at this beautiful tree and know that it grows, great and strong …Stand tall and proud, go out on a limb, and pray that all mankind can walk together as one.'

Julia Thwaites, Honor Thwaites’ grand-daughter, then read out a haunting poem, ‘Yarmuk’, by Michael Thwaites, her grandfather and Honor’s late husband. The poem commemorates the death and burial of Yarmuk, Margaret Tucker's mother, at Cummeragunja on the Murray River in 1959.

Barbara Burns, grand-daughter of Aboriginal rights campaigner Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker, reads the words on a plaque to be laid at the foot of a tree planted by Tucker and her friend Honor Thwaites, a white woman. / Credit: Alex Childs

Julia Thwaites, grand-daughter of Honor Thwaites, reads out a poem by her grandfather Michael Thwaites, commemorating the passing and burial of Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker's mother at Cummeragunja in 1959. / Credit: Alex Childs

Speakers of the evening

Margaret Hepworth invited all guests to observe a moment of silence and respect. Indoors, guests regrouped to hear Uncle Colin Walker from Cummeragunja share his memories of life on the mission and the 1939 Cummeragunja Walkoff. Uncle Herb Patton continued with more stories about Cummeragunja, ending with a performance on the gum leaf! 

Federal MP for Higgins, Dr Katie Allen of the Liberal Party, addressed the crowd on Zoom. Bringing the evening to a fitting climax, keynote speaker and activist Thomas Mayor spoke about the process leading to adoption of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the need for a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous Voice. 

IofC Australia's Executive Officer Margaret Hepworth, in a possum skin cloak. / Credit: Alex Childs

Uncle Colin Walker from Cummeragunja. / Credit: Alex Childs

Uncle Herb Patton from Cummeragunja plays the gum leaf. / Credit: Eike Zeller

Dr Katie Allen, Federal MP for Higgins, speaks about the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. / Screenshot from Facebook live stream.


Thomas Mayor, Torres Strait Islander and rights campaigner, delivers the keynote address at the launch of Our Uluru Response. / Credit: Eike Zeller


Join us in next steps

The IofC Australia community will be writing individual submissions to the Government of Australia, contributing to its current co-design process towards a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous Voice. Read more about the submissions process at the From The Heart campaign and register to take part in our 30 March submission-writing workshop on Zoom. 

Tree planted by Margaret Tucker and Honor Thwaites as a symbol of cooperation. / Credit: Alex Childs