In January Jack Thompson speaks to Awaken‘s Stan Grant about his deep connection to Indigenous Australia and how it has shaped his identity as an Australian icon.
“It’s what I learnt from the Indigenous people of this country when I was fifteen, Mwerre. I belong to this, I belong to this, this is me,” he says.
“There was a push to get me to move to America, and I never wanted to do that. I felt I was part of this renaissance of Australian film and that it has given what I have. I needed to bring it back here and employ that here and remain a part of it.”
Jack Thompson is a man known for many talents – acting, poetry, philanthropy, advocate for Indigenous issues and storyteller. In the Top End of Australia he is known as ‘Gulkula’, the name given to him by his Gumatj family.
Born as John Hadley Pain and mostly known by the name Jack Thompson, his life has gone through many changes from his childhood to an extraordinary acting career. The star of some of Australia’s most iconic films has appeared in The Man From Snowy River, Sunday Too Far Away and Breaker Morant.
Catching up at Garma Festival earlier this year, in this episode of NITV’s Awaken, Thompson speaks to Stan Grant about his deep connection to Indigenous Australia and how it has shaped his identity as an Australian icon.
Thompson says the Garma clans have a special significance for him: “I feel at home here and I’ve felt at home in the company of the Indigenous people of this country since I was fifteen.”
Thompson grew up with Indigenous culture as a young man working on a cattle station in Northern Territory: “When I arrived at Elkedra Station in 1955 I was colour blind – I saw people, just people, not black people. I was working with men more skilled at being a stockman than me, they knew the country better than I did and taught me to behave in the company of elders. I think they saw and sensed that and they treated me as one of their own.”
“I was the only white fella out there with the head stockman and all these Alywarre men. They treated me like their son. I worked in a lot of camps out in the bush, no one ever treated me better,” he adds.
Thompson’s acting career began in 1968 with soap opera Motel and guest appearances on Homicide and Matlock Police. He then took the lead role in spy drama series Spyforce, eventually moving into lead roles in feature films.
With enormous success here in Australia as an actor, there was always the temptation and the lure of Hollywood, but it never held him.
Tuesday 10 January at 9.00pm on NITV