Pioneering Indigenous actor and artist David Dalaithngu dies

Warning: This story contains the name and images of a deceased Indigenous person.

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu’s name and image have been reproduced with his family’s consent.

One of the great actors of Australian cinema has passed away. David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has died four years after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 68 years old.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced the actor’s passing on Monday night.

“It is with deep sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen – David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu,” Marshall said in a statement.

“An actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen,” the premier said.

Dalaithngu was from the Mandhalpingu clan of the Yolŋu people, and was raised in Arnhem land. In his final years he was a resident of Murray Bridge near Adelaide. He made his name in iconic Australian films including Walkabout, Stormboy, Crocodile Dundee, Rabbit Proof Fence, Ten Canoes, and The Tracker.

The Premier acknowledged that in his life he faced many struggles. “He encountered racism and discrimination and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and his public profile.”

“”He was a man who loved his land and his culture, and he was a man who took it to the world.” Steven Marshall said.

His final work was appearing in an acclaimed documentary about his own life, My Name Is Gulpilil. 

He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987, and in 2001 was awarded a Centenary Medal as someone who had made a contribution to Australian society. He won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 for Charlie’s Country, and was given a lifetime achievement award at the 2019 NAIDOC Awards. A portrait of the actor, painted by Craig Ruddy, won the 2004 Archibald Prize.     

The family of Dalaithngu has advised that his name and image may be used in accordance with his wishes, following his passing.

OIP Staff


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