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Gumatj connection at the heart of Jack Thompson

An Australian icon of the screen, stage and poetry, Jack Thompson personified the Aussie male with his roles in Breaker Morant, The Man From Snowy River, Mad Dog Morgan and the TV series Homicide.

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Over four decades he has won the hearts of Hollywood and his nation. But Jack Thompson also won the hearts of our First Peoples.

The veteran actor tells Living Black’s Karla Grant about his strong connection to Indigenous Australians, especially the Gumatj people in East Arnhem Land.

“They said they wanted to make me a member of their family, of their clan, the Gumatji and to be a Yunupingu and they wanted to give me a name. They had a discussion about the name and my name was to be the name of this place, which is a great honour. My name is Gulkula.”

His close connections with East Arnhem Land communities began after attending the Garma Festival in 2007. A plan to assist in the building of simple accommodation was discussed, and the Homelands Building Program was established, supported by the Jack Thompson Foundation.

“People need to be able to live in those homelands and those remote communities… because that is where their culture and their sacred sites have existed for thousands of years. And to remove those people from there… is cultural genocide.”

The veteran actor explains the reason he started his foundation and its commitment to making a difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians.

“We established the Jack Thompson foundation to teach the skills required for people in the remote communities to house themselves now and into the future with the material available to them.”

Living Black Conversations airs this Sunday at 5pm on SBS ONE.

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