Ernie Dingo delivers an outstanding portrayal of Robert Tudawali, the first Aboriginal film star, whose lead role in Australia's first colour film, Jedda, is iconic in Australian cinema.

The film traces the life of Tudawali from the moment he's selected to play the lead in Jedda, right through until his premature death at around age 40 from severe burns. It also portrays the stark contrasts between Tudawali's home outside Darwin, and his life in Sydney, where he did most of his filming for movies and TV series.

This powerful and important story also stars Charles 'Bud' Tingwell and serves as a vital document on Australian film history and Aboriginal culture.

According to some reviewers, Tudawali is Ernie Dingo's finest acting performance.

Tudawali is a powerful and important story: we're now over fifty years on since Jedda, and many attitudes toward Aboriginal people—particularly in the Northern Territory and Queensland—have not changed.

Excerpt from Tudawali


Ernie Dingo - Robert Tudawali
Peter Fisher - Harry Wilkins
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell - Dr. Rayment (as Charles Tingwell)
Bill McCluskey - Jack Everett
Frank Wilson - Charles Chauvel
Suzanne Peverill - Elsa Chauvel
Michelle Torres - Kate Wilson
Shane Wynne - Jimmy Deakin
Chris Sampi - Willy
Michael Carman - Conroy
John Low - Detective
Colin McEwan - Harper (as Colin McEwen)
David Hough - Tough Cop
Sid Plummer - Spruiker
Matt Hayden - Reporter
Murray Dowsett - Editor
Julie Hudspeth - Sarah Watkins
Rod Hall - Jedda 1st AD
Tolis Papazoglou - Greek in Pub
Release dates
1987 - Australia
Video/DVD release date
7 July 2010
M - Mature
Raphael Apuatimi

In 1952 Charles Chauvel and his wife Elsa chose Tudawali as the first Aboriginal film actor for the leading male role in Jedda (1955), a full-length colour motion picture filmed in the Territory and in Sydney.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) sponsors the Tudawali Award for contributions to Indigenous media.

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Tudawali, <>, retrieved 17 October 2019

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