Australia

Fans pay tribute to legendary actor David Gulpilil after he wins top NAIDOC award

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Australians have offered messages of support for Indigenous acting legend David Gulpilil after he revealed his battle with cancer upon winning a top NAIDOC award.

Yolngu elder David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has been recognised with a top NAIDOC award for revolutionising the way the world sees Aboriginal people by bringing traditional culture to the big screen.

The sixty-six year old film legend was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the 2019 NAIDOC Awards held in Canberra on Saturday.

As a traditional dancer, Gulpilil adapted the precision, grace and agility of the discipline into his acting.
As a traditional dancer, Gulpilil adapted the precision, grace and agility of the discipline into his acting.
NITV

The actor's achievements over five decades was acknowledged, including his appearances in iconic films such as Walkabout, The Last Wave, Crocodile Dundee, The Tracker and Rabbit Proof Fence.

His daughters accepted the gong on his behalf as illness prevented him from attending the awards ceremony.

David Gulpilil’s presence in the industry also disrupted the practice of non-Aboriginal actors playing Aboriginal character roles.
David Gulpilil’s presence in the industry also disrupted the practice of non-Aboriginal actors playing Aboriginal character roles.
Supplied

"Our father David Gulpilil is retiring," daughter Phoebe Marson said.

"He's sick. He has lung cancer and one day soon he will go to the Dreamtime."

In a pre-recorded interview broadcast during the ceremony, David Gulpilil expressed his wish that he be remembered. 

"Thank you very much for watching me," he said.

"Never forget me. While I am here, I will never forget you. I will still remember you, even though I am gone forever, I will still remember."

READ MORE: The prolific work of David Gulpilil

'Easily the greatest actor this country has ever had'

The revelation of the actor's battle with cancer triggered an outpouring of support from fans on social media. 

Many Australians thanked the actor for his work spanning five decades, saying it had inspired them. 

Trevor Leaman expressed his dismay and sadness at the news, tweeting: "Oh no, just learned that my all time favorite Aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil, is very sick with lung cancer."

Aboriginal Australian activist and human rights lawyer professor Megan Davis said the achievements of the man must not be forgotten.

"This man is easily the greatest actor this country has ever had. No debate," she said in a message posted on Twitter.

"His oeuvre speaks to the unresolved grievance this country bears."

'So well deserved'

Indigenous country singer Troy Cassar-Daley said the Yolngu elder was a class act, staying true to his Indigenous identity even as he made great strides in the film industry.

Others within the Indigenous community thanked the actor for telling the stories of Aboriginal culture.

Actor Tysan Towney said as a mentee he was constantly inspired.

Other fans recalled a life of growing up with the storytelling of the silver screen star.

Ten Indigenous Australians honoured

Ten Indigenous Australians were recognised across the categories of sports, arts and community contributions at the 2019 NAIDOC Awards.

Dean Duncan, national diversity manager at non-for-profit organisation Lifestyle Solutions was awarded NAIDOC Person of the Year as a champion of diversity, social justice and equality.

The winners of the 2019 NAIDOC Awards.
The winners of the 2019 NAIDOC Awards.
Supplied

National NAIDOC committee co-chair John Paul Janke said the annual awards provide the opportunity to showcase indigenous excellence.

"They celebrate our past, our present and our future and (how) individuals' unwavering determination and work enrich our communities," Mr Janke said in a statement.

The full list of 2019 NAIDOC Award winners:

Person of the Year - Dean Duncan
Lifetime Achievement Award - David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu, AM
Female Elder of the Year - Thelma Weston
Male Elder of the Year - Greg Little
Caring for Country - Littlewell Working Group
Youth of the Year - Mi-kaisha Masella
Artist of the Year - Elma Gada Kris
Scholar of the Year - Professor Michael McDaniel
Apprentice of the Year - Ganur Maynard
Sportsperson of the Year - Shantelle Thompson

Additional reporting: AAP

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