WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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12 July 2021 // David Ngoombujarra

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David Ngoombujarra (27 June 1967 – 17 July 2011) was an actor of the Yamatji people. Born David Bernard Starr in Meekatharra, Western Australia, Ngoombujarra was removed from his family under government policy referenced as 'The Stolen Generation' and adopted at the age of 10 months by Coolbellup couple Derek and Amy Sloan.

His talent was apparent from a young age and he would sit in his high chair and copy radio and television announcers. At the age of 14, Ngoombujarra met his birth mother, who died soon afterwards. That experience had a profound impact on him.

 

In 1984, the 17-year-old Ngoombujarra headed east with his mouth organ, guitar and didgeridoo, spending four years busking and enchanting passers-by with his talent, a flashing smile and the rich, deep voice that would eventually seduce casting agents. 

 

His acting career spanned over two decades from the 1980s to 2010. He picked up some minor film roles in Young Einstein and others after being spotted busking in Circular Quay.


A three-time Australian Film Institute award winner, Ngoombujarra won one of his three film institute awards for “Black and White,” in which he played an Aboriginal man convicted of killing a young white girl. He won the other two for “Blackfellas” in 1993 and the Australian television series “The Circuit.” 

He had leading roles in films such as Australia, Ned Kelly and Rabbit-Proof Fence, and also featured in Crocodile Dundee, Kangaroo Jack, Harry's War, Day of the Dog and TV series Home and Away.

In July 2011, he was found unconscious in a park in Fremantle, the port city near Perth Western Australia, and died in hospital. The cause of death was not suspicious, but indicative of a life-long sadness stemming from the impacts of the Stolen Generation that saw him battle with alcoholism and depression.

Tributes flowed world-wide in his passing, including the New York Times and celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, who worked with Ngoombujarra on Australia, expressed his sorrow on Twitter. "So saddened to hear about the passing of David Ngoombujarra Starr. An extraordinary man, actor and friend," he said. "His laugh, warmth and humanity will live on with all who knew him."

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