The Turruk Effect

Thursday, April 6, 2023


Turruk is an immersive learning journey that gathers a curious community, inviting them to connect the dots of their own cultural intelligence through respectful relationships with First Peoples. Participants engage in culturally safe yarning circles led by diverse First Nations perspectives and engage in workshops for critical and creative reflection. Here, impactful truth-telling is coupled with deep listening to enable incremental transformation with purposeful action. Decolonising frameworks are explored to confront unconscious bias and assumptions around the ongoing impact of colonisation.

Turruk is a signature program of Initiatives of Change Australia, who have been trust-building with First Peoples in Australia since 1965. With the invitation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart to walk together to express our nationhood, Turruk has been developed to build trust in developing co-design opportunities. Our theory of change is underpinned by shifting the perception of working with First Peoples from a ‘deficit’ lens to ‘resource’ lens, respecting self-determination in the process. The five principles of trust-building that Turruk focuses on are: 

  • Authentic leadership
  • Inclusive dialogues
  • Healing historical wounds 
  • Diverse collaboration
  • Trust building futures

In this instance, Turruk has adapted the trust building methodology with a cultural lens from Yorta Yorta, Wurrundjeri and BoonWurrung man Uncle Shane Charles, and First Nations leaders in Victoria and across Australia. Over the past three years, the trust-building program in Australia has attracted over 2400 participants in more than 35 national and local education forums, including workshops and walking tours in Australia. In 2021 the program won a United Nations Intercultural Innovation Award, as part of a collection of similar Trust building programs held in 11 countries around the world.

Turruk can be experienced in parts, as three hour curated workshops, or as a full program of five sessions in themed yarning circles led by First Peoples.  Typically, workshops feature First Nations speakers and participants with diverse perspectives, primarily held in person but often with an online offer. Each yarn is coupled with a masterclass led by Initiatives of Change Australia facilitators and attracts a broad spectrum of intercultural, multisectoral and intergenerational community participation. Generally, Turruk takes place at ‘Armagh’ – the home of Initiatives of Change, and a National Centre for Excellence in Reconciliation, Education and Healing. Here, the program is framed with immersive experiences including Welcome to Country and smoking ceremonies, yidaki healings and bushtucker themed food offers. Held in the grand homestead and gardens of Armagh, the space hosts pop-up Indigenous art exhibitions and performances, an Indigenous library and community notice board of First Peoples cultural events. We suggest that participants interested in tailoring our unique Turruk offer into their business, experience a Turruk in Community workshop or full program. Here they can understand the comprehensive kit on offer that can be aligned to a diverse range of businesses.

Turruk has a track record of being an adaptive program that can be delivered in several ways. Recently, it partnered with Hobson Bay City Council as part of an environmental arts program where the focus was on ‘Regenerating Country.‘ Turruk met the needs of the National Sustainable Living Festival, and in partnership with Melbourne City Council, Sustainable Architecture Forum and Initiatives of Change, it formed part of larger education forum at the Capitol Theatre. Turruk has also been experienced as an urban cultural immersion walking tour at sites of significance. Here it was tailored with engineering firm Aurecon to action their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) with professional development and team building activities.

Recently, Turruk was tailored to suit the needs for esteemed architecture practice Woods Bagot, which employs more than 1000 people across six offices in Australia and in 11 different countries, in cities including New York, Hong Kong and Dubai. Co-creators Uncle Shane Charles and social impact designer and architect Sarah Naarden identified the areas of potential development. By crafting the initial meeting as cultural audits, the program was developed around the top eight questions asked by participants that specifically related to designing with First Peoples’ perspectives in the built environment. This was illustrated by examples of best-practise, protocols, procurement, processes, and grassroots lived experiences of unconscious bias and healing historical wounds.  Contributions were made by Turruk guest speakers: Wiradjuri man Uncle Glenn Loughrey; Meriam woman Torres Strait Islander, Alana Marsh and Yorta Yorta Wurundjeri Boon Wurrung emerging leader, Dylan Charles.

In many ways, Woods Bagot is leading the field with significant landmark projects like Tarrkarri, Centre for First Nations Cultures in Adelaide. In Victoria, the Woods Bagot team is committed to advancing co-design with co-development processes with the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative After the Turruk in Community training in May 2022, Woods Bagot Principal Bronwyn McColl and colleague Tahlia Landrigan forged a significant pathway for Turruk in business and the built environment. It has been inspiring to witness their outstanding commitment to mobilising their team with cultural intelligence, enabling meaningful participation with First Peoples. Woods Bagot is not only leading the way for Australia but could be paving the way for world leading engagement processes.

On 9 May 2023, Turruk in Community focuses on the Voice Referendum. Each week a different theme is explored, including: ‘Voice’, ‘Treaty’, ‘Truth and Makaratta’, ‘Healing and Justice’, to understand the holistic impact for nation-building and healing. Find out more 

If you are curious to join this growing community of practice, please contact

In May 2022, Bronwyn commented on her Turruk in Community experience and in April 2023 Tahlia shared her insights around Turruk for Woods Bagot:

“Congratulations on the Turruk Trustbuilding course, I learnt so much through the journey and it has sparked so many ideas! I had no preconceived notions of what to expect, or what I would take from it - only that I come with an open mind and heart – and the experience has been incredible. Confronting, challenging, humbling, and inspiring all at the same time. I have also met some incredible people, and hope it is the start of some amazing friendships and collaborations to come! As part of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), we have items relating to learning, understanding, knowledge building and empathy - I look forward to collaboration opportunities we have for creating a bespoke corporate program and connecting with some of your other activities.”  

-Bronwyn Mc Coll,  Reconciliation Steering Committee Woods Bagot 


"Over the period of the Turruk Workshops at Woods Bagot, it has been a privilege to learn from Sarah Naarden, Uncle Shane Charles, Uncle Glen Loughrey and Alannah Marsh. The history, stories and knowledge that we as a studio have begun to learn during this course will greatly assist in the development of each individual’s journey and the studio’s cultural intelligence in our reconciliation journey together.  

Turruk creates a space for safe learning and discussion. A key moment over the 5 weeks of Turruk have been the discussions following each session. The ideas that have been sparked along the way of how these learnings could assist in our design approach hold great opportunity and it’s exciting to see those discussions occurring beyond Turruk and questions being asked.I look forward to further collaboration with Initiatives of Change in the future and to continue my learning journey." 

- Tahlia Landrigan, Interior Designer Woods Bagot