Robert Tudawali

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Robert Tudawali
Robert Tudawali at Darwin's Bagot Reserve 1960.jpg
Tudawali at the Bagot Native Settlement in 1960
Born Robert Tudawali
Melville Island, Northern Territory
Died July 1967 (aged 37–38)
Darwin, Northern Territory
Cause of death Severe burns and tuberculosis[1]
Resting place Darwin cemetery

Robert Tudawali (1929 – 26 July 1967) was an Australian actor and indigenous activist, born and raised on Melville Island in the Northern Territory to Tiwi parents.[1]

Although he had only a rudimentary education in Kahlin, at the Native Affairs Branch, he attained a rich English vocabulary, he was the leading Australian rules footballer as a youth, he alternated several times between Aboriginal and white society. Tudawali used the name Bobby Wilson in Darwin.

He became the first Aboriginal film star as a result of playing the lead role, Marbuck, in the 1955 Australian film Jedda. Tudawali played the role of Emu Foot in the 1958 movie Dust in the Sun, a mystery film adapted from the novel Justin Bayard by Jon Cleary and produced by the team of Lee Robinson and Chips Rafferty. Under the name Bobby Wilson he took part in various episodes of the 1960 TV series Whiplash. Tudawadi also featured in the ABC television play Burst of Summer in 1961.

Tudawali served as Vice-President of the Northern Territory Council for Aboriginal Rights, and, working with trade unionists and author Frank Hardy, fought to highlight the poor wages and conditions of Aboriginal stockmen in the Northern Territory, which culminated in the Wave Hill walk off in 1966.[2] Tudawali had organised to give a series of talks to unionists throughout Australia in support of the stockmen when the Northern Territory administration banned any travel by Tudawali due to the tuberculosis he was suffering at the time.[2]

Tudawali died of severe burns on 26 July 1967 following an incident on Bagot community, Darwin.[1][3]

In 1987, Steve Jodrell directed Tudawali, a made for television docu-drama about Robert Tudawali, with Ernie Dingo in the title role.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c Forrest, Peter. "Tudawali, Robert (1929–1967)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Snowdon, W., "“Sometime we bin get extra salt on the beef.” Heroes of the Northern Territory", Crikey, Accessed 18 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Tudawali funeral". The Canberra Times. 41, (11,765). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 August 1967. p. 7. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  4. ^ Tudawali, Australian feature films shot in or set in or first shown in or partly financed by Western Australia.
  5. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p156

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