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David Gulpilil

My Name is Gulpilil 

07 June 2021

In 1955, Charles Chauvel’s Jedda – the first colour feature film made in Australia – was released. At the January première in Darwin, the two Aboriginal cast members, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks and Robert Tudawali, were the only ones permitted to sit with the white people. (Later that year it was released in the United Kingdom as Jedda the Uncivilized.)

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Australians have admired distinguished actor David Gulpilil in films like Walkabout (1971), Storm Boy (1976), The Tracker (2002), and Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002). Not so many will be familiar with the details of his recent life, as related by journalist Derek Rielly. We find Gulpilil dying of lung cancer in Murray Bridge, an unprepossessing town on the lower Murray River in South Australia. He is surrounded by friends and cared for by the heroic Mary Hood, a retired nurse who has dedicated much of her life to caring for Aboriginal people in the Top End. This follows several bleak years living as a ‘long grasser’ on the fringes of Darwin and doing time in Berrimah Prison on charges of serious assault during a drunken fight.

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