Indigenous actor David Gulpilil at his home in Murray Bridge. Picture: Richard Freeman
Indigenous actor David Gulpilil at his home in Murray Bridge. Picture: Richard Freeman

Iconic Indigenous actor is dying from cancer

Last year in Murray Bridge David Gulpilil's friend and carer, Mary Hood, found the much-loved indigenous actor slumped in the shower with no breath and no pulse.

While yelling to her son to call an ambulance, she ran for the oxygen concentrate that emphysema sufferers rely on to breathe.

The oxygen began to flow and Gulpilil stirred, back from the brink.

A year later he is still here, 66, defying the odds by surviving at this point two years past the life expectancy he was given when diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, in addition to emphysema.

In October that year he emerged looking frail at the Adelaide Film Festival, then defied expectations again by arriving in January this year for the Adelaide premiere of Storm Boy, a remake of the 1976 movie made in the Coorong that launched him to fame.

His biographer, Sydney author Derek Rielly who wrote Wednesdays with Bob, about former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, said Gulpilil was in as good a position as he could be given his terminal illness, including having cataracts removed about a month ago.

"He's stabilised and seems OK," Rielly said.

"If he wants something he's quite animated, he gets out every day. It's not like he's in a wheelchair and nodding off."

Gulpilil moved to Murray Bridge in 2016, joining Hood who he knew from Darwin, to get away from the relentless "humbugging" - demands for money - from sections of the indigenous community who think because Gulpilil is a star he must be rich.

He has received immunotherapy treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital which has so far prolonged his life.