Message sticks speak language of solidarity at Uluru

The heart of Australia beat proudly recently when 120 Indigenous Australians arrived at Uluru to participate in the 2016 Indigenous Marathon Foundation’s (IMF) National Deadly Fun Run Championships and 11km relay run around Uluru on 16 July.

History was made when 18 Indigenous communities from all corners of Australia, representing an incredible cross-section of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures, left their footprints on the red dirt of Central Australia to highlight and celebrate Indigenous resilience and achievement.

Each community, from some of Australia’s and the world’s most remote Indigenous communities, descended on Uluru with a cultural message stick, a form of communication used in Indigenous communities for tens of thousands of years.

There are hundreds of Aboriginal languages and dialects, making verbal communication between tribes extremely difficult. Message sticks were created to communicate between various tribes and clans. Traditional message sticks were small in size and generally hand carved and crafted with decorative symbols conveying messages.

The symbols of cultural significance were presented to the Traditional Owners and Elders of the Mutitjulu Community, located at the base of Uluru, in a show of respect, solidarity and appreciation for the honour of running an 11km relay run on the sacred land of Uluru.

The relay run drew the curtain on a spectacular weekend of running celebration, with the National Deadly Fun Run Championships held in the morning at Yulara.

Four runners from each community were chosen to represent their communities in the Championships’ junior 3km and senior 5km events.

Dubbo’s team of four young men, mentored and trained by 2014 IMP Graduate, Nathan Riley, defended its title from 2015, reigning victorious as the 2016 Community Champions.

South Australia’s Murray Bridge team, led and mentored by 2013 and 2015 IMP Graduates Luke McKenzie and Daniel Lloyd (respectively), came in a close second, with Tennant Creek crossing in third place (full individual results can be found below).

Deek said the event is becoming one of the nation’s most significant events.

“We welcomed 120 Indigenous Australians to one of the country’s most sacred sites. Everyone immersed themselves in the community, history and culture, and to see so much colour, vibrancy and celebration is a true testament to our Indigenous culture; our national treasure.

“It’s an unforgettable weekend where culture is celebrated, friendships are made, and some friendly competition is embraced; all initiated by the simple form of running. It’s just incredible. Running is being reignited throughout Australia’s Indigenous communities and it’s changing lives.

“I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who participated over the weekend and continue to make this such an iconic Indigenous event,” he said.

The communities involved in the weekend were:

  • NSW – Queanbeyan, Sydney, Dubbo
  • QLD – Thursday Island, Cairns
  • SA – Amata, Mimili, Murray Bridge, Aldinga, Indulkana
  • VIC – Gunditjmara
  • WA – Broome
  • NT – Alice Springs (Alkamilya and Yipirinya communities), Gapuwiyak, Galiwinku, Tennant Creek, Kakadu

Individual results are:

1st Tracey Bryans Female Murraylands (SA)
2nd Emily Petterson Female Kakadu (NT)
3rd Gloria (Raelene) Thornton Female Queanbeyan (NSW)

1st Joseph Williams Male Dubbo (NSW)
2nd Chris Guyula Male Gapuwiyak (NT)
3rd Isiah Satrick-O’Shane Male Cairns (QLD)

1st Skyeisha Rigney Girl Murraylands (SA)
2nd Tyleah Barr Girl Gunditjmara (VIC)
3rd Faith Stevens Girl Galiwinku (NT)

1st Jaxen Mitchell Boy Kakadu (NT)
2nd Anthony Hunter Boy Dubbo (NSW)
3rd Dasher Hill Boy Dubbo (NSW)
In 2012, IMF launched the Deadly Fun Run Series (DFRS), a community based series of running and walking events and training groups coordinated by IMP Graduates (FrontRunners) for their communities.

The series consists of at least four monthly fun runs or walks, which aim to reintroduce the sport to Indigenous culture.

To view a fully gallery of images, please click here.