Celebrating Aurukun’s Deadly Runners Trip to Uluru

Deadly Runners Uluru2Run, Sweat, Inspire.

Last weekend 4 young men from Aurukun and their two coaches boarded a flight to Alice Springs to take part in the Deadly Runners Fun Run Championships in Uluru.

Congratulations to Angus Kerindun Jnr, Barney Koongotema, Michael Yunkaporta and José Nawakie for their hard work and commitment and special thanks to Deadly Runners coaches Scott White from T2S Youth Justice Program and Andrew Packer from Apunipima. Here is a chronicle of their adventures:


The excitement began on Thursday night when the boys arrived in Cairns. The group headed off to Cairns Central for late night shopping to get some warm clothes for the cold desert nights. Tracksuits, jumpers, gloves, beanies and a brand new set of running shoes were squeezed into suitcases ready for an early flight the next day.


Friday started early for our group of Deadly Runners with an early flight from Cairns to Uluru. The sun was up when they landed in Uluru, but the low temperatures were a big shock to our Cape York kids who had never been south of Townsville. A short shuttle bus ride took our group to their accommodation to drop off bags, and they hit the ground running with media calls and interviews at the base of Uluru. bags.

Angus and Andrew were able to spend a few hours exploring the town centre while the others were sharing their stories with the media pack.

Later that afternoon the whole group headed out to a camel farm, and even though it was too late for a camel ride, the boys were more than happy to spend time feeding and petting the “ships of the desert.” One very cheeky camel took Michael’s hat right off his head!

It had already been a very big and fatigue was starting to take its toll on the athletes…a nap, or a swim? Boys being boys, they chose a swim in the very cool hotel swimming pool!

The boys all enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the lookout, watching the sun dip behind Kata Tjuṯa.

The final activity for the day was a formal dinner to open the event. Rob de Castella, founder of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, gave a keynote address and our Aurukun boys shared their table with three VIP’s, Australian Olympians. Dinner was filled with inspiring stories and lots of laughter.

On the walk home from dinner, the temperature was well into the single figures, and Michael :was not at all impressed with the chill in the air. “Sir, you know people die in cold weather like this?” Thankfully it was only a short walk home, and our Cape York Kids were quickly tucked into their warm beds.


Saturday was the day for running. The Deadly Fun Run was held on the “field of lights.” More than 150 participants gathered in a large circle to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, and introduce themselves and where they were from.

Race time…

The juniors ran 3kms into Yulara, and the seniors ran 5kms. Our Aurukun Deadly Runners did really well and received a medal at the finish line..

After lunch, the Cape York Kids and their coaches headed out to Mutitjulu, a small aboriginal community at the base of Uluru. We were met by the traditional owners who granted permission to run on their land. Team members boarded a shuttle bus and were taken to various relay points around the base of Uluru.

Each team had a “message stick” that was bought from their community. This was their relay baton and was passed between runners as the circled the rock. Aurukun’s relay baton was a carved dugong made by Steve Yunkaporta. After the 12km relay around the base of Uluru the message sticks were presented to elders of Mutitjulu as a gift of thanks. Michael Yunkaporta spoke well when he presented the carved dugong to Mutitjulu elders.

Closing Dinner and Celebration…

The closing dinner and celebration was held at Yulara. After the formalities were complete, the stage was made available for anyone who wanted to share their story. This was another highlight in a weekend filled with inspiration and highlights. Ten or so people shared their story that night. Their stories were personal and poignant, filled with tears of joy and pain. Most importantly the stories were honest and frank and included peoples experience with alcoholism, chronic disease, mental health, violent relationships and self-doubt.   

The deadly running community enables a supportive environment where people can make a positive change and influence others to change. The motto for deadly runners is “Run, Sweat, Inspire”. Running is accessible to all ages, abilities and locations and has the tremendous power to instil a sense of personal accomplishment when one has pushed beyond what they thought possible. One of the that the best way to prove people wrong is in a positive way, to make a positive change. There will be doubters, but you can prove them wrong.


On Sunday morning our Deadly Runners played tourist. They visited Kata Tjuṯa, walked the Karu
Lookout and into the Valley of the Winds. This was a great opportunity for the boys to escape the hype of the weekend and to let the experience soak in.


The final activity of the weekend was a visit to the Cairns Aquarium on Monday morning. They loved kindly donated tickets to the boys and let them experience the aquarium. They were super excited to see all the fish and reptiles on display.

It was a jam-packed weekend and a lot of fun. There is no other event like this in Australia, providing a life-changing opportunity to connect with Australia’s strong culture and history. The Aurukun boys were able to meet people from all over the country. They met kids their own age, older people with inspirational stories, and even a group of Australian Olympians. They have memories that will last them a lifetime and learned valuable lessons that they can take forward with them.  

Special thanks to the fantastic support from Skytrans, Aurukun Shire Council, FRC, Qantas, Glencore, PCYC, T2S, Indigenous Marathon Foundation, Queensland Government, Aurukun State School, Apunipima, and Island and Cape Stores. Without their support this inspiring weekend would not have been possible.

If you’re inspired after reading this story, we have some good news for you. Cairns has a Deadly Running group that meets every Thursday at 5:30pm on the esplanade. Check their facebook page for all the details. They are also hosting a special NAIDOC Fun Run -  Saturday 7th July at the Esplanade.