(Uncle Ossie Cruse. Photo by Karen Wootton)

Ossie Cruse walks quietly, gently and proudly. Wearing his unique hat, Ossie has a big story to tell of a life of hardship and redemption and of persistence and resilience. He has known the love and respect of family and community, and he has experienced biased, baseless hatred. Ossie Cruse wears both his hat and his dignity well. At 86 he has a ready smile and a warmth that transmits from his eyes to his handshake. Charisma is what Ossie has, and he has it in abundance.

Ossie and his wife Robin (they met a few years ago when she contacted him as part of her PhD in gum leaf playing) wandered into our orbit while admiring Jimmy’s mural. Ossie explained to Lois that the Plover is his totemic (spiritual) emblem so Lois immediately gave Ossie her Hoodie pin and he popped it straight onto the front of his distinctive hat. A conversation ensued with Chris learning that ‘Uncle Ossie’ lives in Eden and is a humble man with an incredible story.

From his early involvement in land rights he has dedicated his life to the advancement of Aboriginal people and to the survival and sharing of Aboriginal culture and knowledge. He’s a man who respects his ancestral home and has a passion for gum leaf playing and treading lightly on the land. Ossie loved Jimmy’s Hoodie mural.

We always believed, once our mural project commenced, it would connect people with nature and help raise awareness of the challenges facing our coastal environment and its inhabitants. We could never have imagined that, through the mural, we would meet Ossie Cruse MBE, OAM, a national treasure who would give us tips on gum leaf playing and pin a Hoodie badge proudly on his hat. Art truly has the power to connect.

Do yourself a favour and watch the ‘Australian Story’ episode on Ossie at

Our world needs more people like Ossie.

By Karen Wootton (Friends of the Hooded Plover Newsletter, Issue 40, April 2020)