Eden Elder Ossie Cruse has always treasured the tradition of gum leaf playing - but he never expected it would lead him to finding true love.
The unexpected love story began six years ago when Uncle Ossie was filmed performing a gum leaf song in a meeting with Malcolm Turnbull on the 2016 election campaign trail.
Robin Ryan, later known to people on the Far South Coast as Robby Cruse, had been studying the history of Aboriginal gum leaf music for over two decades when she saw Uncle Ossie playing for Mr Turnbull on her TV.
"I was at my daughter's home in Melbourne, visiting from Perth and I saw Ossie on the television playing to the Prime Minister and I said to her, 'Who is he?! And how come I've never found him before?'" Robby said.
Intrigued at how she had never met Mr Cruse despite her extensive research into South Eastern Australian players, including the Wallaga Lake Gumleaf Band, Robby eventually made contact with Uncle Ossie.
"Eighteen months later I happened to be going to Canberra with my daughter and I said, 'why don't we go through Eden on the way back to Melbourne, so we can track down that gum leaf player'," Robby said.
Robby said she found Uncle Ossie's number online and learned he was the pastor of the Aboriginal Evangelical Church in Eden.
Sure enough she rang him up the day before their arrival to ask if they would be conducting a New Year's service and Uncle Ossie confirmed they were and invited her to join.
When Robby first met Uncle Ossie she was actually worried she might have "put her foot in it", an anecdote she enjoys telling people to this day.
"He walked over and said 'I'm Pastor Ossie and I lost my beautiful wife five years ago', and he looked quite sad as he said it.
"So I replied, 'well I'm a widow for 11 years and I'm alright' - but it sounded like I was just saying, 'hey I'm alright'," Robby said with a laugh.
As Robby said this Uncle Ossie looked up with a grin and said that she had been a "very forward woman", and that "the gumleaf got me a wife".
From then on the pair stayed in touch, with Uncle Ossie regularly calling in to check in on Robby as she continued her life in WA.
"We kept talking over the phone which started as once a fortnight, then once a week and then every night after," Robby said.
Uncle Ossie said he enjoyed talking to Robby and had faith that she had come across his path because it had been part of "God's plan".
"That's life, you learn that God is in control and you have a certain life to live," Uncle Ossie said.
Uncle Ossie popped the question on Robby's 71st birthday on August 9, 2017.
In a flurry of excitement she rang her youngest son and announced she was engaged to be married on September 16 the very same year.
"When my son realised that it was the very next month he was like, 'oh Mum, a shotgun wedding!" Robby said with a laugh.
Uncle Ossie and Robby tied the knot in the cultural meeting place Jigamy Farm near Eden, surrounded by family and friends.
Many local figures, important guests and family members contributed to their special day.
From the design of the dress by Robby's niece who was a fashion designer, to a digeridoo performance by local Yuin man Nathan Lygon - who five years later also got married at Jigamy Farm.
"We didn't send out any invitations, which was the Koori custom, instead the word spread like Koori whispers do and many people came to attend," Robby said.
The celebrant on the day was renowned Indigenous Pastor Ray Minniecon and the welcome to country conducted by Uncle Ossie's son Benjamin (BJ) Cruse.
When asked what the highlights of the special day were, Uncle Ossie said with a smile that it was the moment he saw his future wife coming down the spiral staircase.
"I thought what a beautiful lady and I thought God is good because it was him that brought us together."
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