Iconic Indigenous actor David Gulpilil dies after battle with lung cancer

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu, a “once-in-a-generation” artist who became an Australian film icon over a decades-long career, has died.

Seventeen-year-old actor David Gulpilil from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. (Fairfax Archive)

The passing of the Yolŋu actor, dancer, singer and painter, who starred in dozens of films, including his renowned debut Walkabout, Storm Boy and Ten Canoes, was confirmed on Monday night by the South Australian Premier’s office.

The Indigenous actor was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, and had not been expected to survive until the premiere of his last film, My Name is Gulpilil, let alone attend the premiere, Steven Marshall said.

“Yet it was no surprise to anyone that he was front and centre on opening night, where he would receive his final standing ovation,” the Premier said, of the Member of the Order of Australia.

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

“My thoughts are with his family, and his dear friend and carer Mary Hood.”

Actor David Gulilpil in Melbourne for the Melbourne Film Festival. (Cathryn Tremain)

The Premier’s office said Gulpilil’s family had advised his name and image may continue to be used following his passing, in line with his wishes.

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