• Proud Adnyamathanha man, Vince Coulthard. (Supplied. )Source: Supplied.
A proud Adnyamathanha Elder thought he was attending an event to celebrate his daughter, but found 150 people had turned up to honour him instead.
Douglas Smith

18 Nov 2019 - 4:29 PM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2019 - 4:30 PM

Adnyamathanha Elder Vince Coulthard was sitting at the back of the room ready to enjoy what he thought was a celebration for his daughter's new appointment to a senior role at the Ikara Wilpena resort in South Australia when his nephew suddenly turned to him and said, "Uncle Vince, This Is Your Life."

Around 150 people made the trip to the remote resort in SA's Flinders' Ranges to celebrate Mr Coulthard's 45-years of service to his people. 

“It was a big shock because I was there under the impression that it was to celebrate our first Aboriginal deputy general manager of our resort, my daughter," said Mr Coulthard.  

“Once they made the announcement about, This Is Your Life, I walked through the front and then I looked behind me - there was a whole lot of people that have been very much a part of my journey."

Mr Coulthard, who is the director of South Australia's only Aboriginal radio station, the Umeewarra Aboriginal Media Association in Port Augusta, has devoted much of his life to working tirelessly for his community. 

From starting out as one of the first Aboriginal rangers employed by National Park in SA, Mr Coulthard moved into media and has been a leading light in First Nations media for the past 25 years.

Mr Coulthard said it's "very important" for Aboriginal voices to be heard in the media, especially in his local community.

"We, the people, know what's best for us - and for too long non-Aboriginal people have been saying that they know what's best for us, but they've got no idea," he said. 

"It's Aboriginal people speaking out for themselves. It's our people's future and we should be able to determine what our own destiny is."

Prominent names who were unable to make the event, sent their congratulations through video message, including  Adam Goodes and Senator Patrick Dodson, who joked about how the two old friends are often mistaken for each other in appearance.

"Ahh Vince, it's always confusing when you come to the Parliament House here in Canberra. I guess it's because of the hat and the beard more than anything else, and people the security guards get confused with me and you," said Senator Dodson. 

Joy McKean also offered her congratulations via video on behalf of the Slim Dusty family. 

"We were very proud to present you with our mateship award - the Slim Dusty Mateship Award- because you have certainly earned it," said Ms McKean. 

The list of Mr Coulthard's lifetime achievements went far beyond being a ranger and dedicating half a century to Indigenous media: as the Vice Chair of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Council for 13 years, Mr Coulthard was a part of SA's first Native Title claim, which in 2009 won a consent determination over the largest claim in the state. 

Mr Coulthard was also instrumental in setting up the Nunga Courts in Port Augusta, where he still contributes as a mediator, Elder and cultural mentor. 

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