His death comes after he attended the premiere of documentary My Name Is Gulpilil at the Adelaide Festival earlier this year, defying a terminal lung cancer prognosis from 2017 that had only given him six months to live.
The news was confirmed on Monday night by South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, who described the trailblazing actor as a “once-in-a-generation artist”.
“It is with deep sadness that I share the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen – David Dalaithngu Am,” he wrote in a statement.
“My thoughts are with his family, and his dear friend and carer Mary Hood.”
A Mandhalpuyngu man from the Arafura Swamp region in Arnhem Land, Dalaithngu was just 16 when he starred in his breakout role in Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film Walkabout,