‘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
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.
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.
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.