Willie's message carried to the nation

Guurrbi has had an unforgettable few days, with Willie's message of equality and reconciliation shared across the nation during the launch of the country's pre-Australia Day celebrations from Cooktown.

At a (very wet!) Dawn Event on Cooktown's Wharf, filmed by all the major TV networks and broadcast to a potential audience of 2.5 million people, Willie talked about his rock art tours and encouraged Aboriginal people to take part in the celebrations, saying all Australians needed to learn from the past and move forward together.

With Reconciliation as its theme, the National Australia Day Council had picked 'iconic' Cooktown as the location for their fifth annual Dawn Event because of its history of First Contact between James Cook and the Aboriginal people. And they wanted their VIP guests to experience a tour with Willie, because of the way he embodied the spirit of reconciliation, making his culture accessible and relevant to everybody.

We therefore had the honour of hosting, amongst others, Adam Gilchrist, outstanding cricketer and Chair of the National Australia Day Council (pictured); Jonathon Welch, Australia's 2008 Local Hero best known for his work with The Choir of Hard Knocks; Senior Australian of the Year, David Busseau, who launched Opportunity International (which coincidentally had a hand in helping Willie get a loan to buy his first bus), and Richard Fidler from the ABC.
This inspirational group of people were, in turn, inspired by Willie, describing their tour of his ancestral rock art as 'Brilliant', 'Insightful', 'Thought-provoking', 'Wonderful', 'Provocative' and 'Absolutely inspirational'. Adam even gave Willie's tours a huge rap during his interview on TV the following morning.

They also loved Cooktown. Adam said he couldn't believe how beautiful it was, and both Jonathon Welch and country music legend Lee Kernaghan (who arrived from Tamworth in time for the Dawn Event) told Mayor, Peter Scott, that they would love to hold a concert here. So watch this space!

And Willie is still pinching himself. As he said after it was all over, never in his wildest dreams could he ever have thought six years ago, when he started the business, that this would happen to him.

Backyard cricket on a wet Cooktown wharf after the Dawn Event. Willie batting, with Adam Gilchrist at the wicket, Lee Kernaghan fielding with help from young Kevin Dukes.
(Photo Cooktown Local News)