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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26 July 2021 // Ernie Dingo

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Ernest Ashley Dingo AM (31 July 1956 - ) is an actor, television presenter, comedian, teacher, dancer, visual artist and sportsman. A Yamatji man, he was born at Bullardoo Station, the second child of nine, including three brothers and five sisters. He grew up in Mullewa, Western Australia with his family.

He attended both Prospect Primary School and Geraldton High School in his hometown in Western Australia. Dingo got his first big break in acting after moving to Boorloo (Perth) and meeting Richard Walley, with whom he played basketball in a local team. He then went on to play state league first division for the East Perth Hawks. In 1976 he collaborated with Richard Walley to create the first public performance of the "Welcome to Country" ceremony in Boorloo, now a practise firmly embedded into National protocol.

 

Dingo's film career began in the early 1980s and he appeared regularly on screen through the 1990s. He starred in the title role in the 1987 docu-drama biopic Tudawali and appeared in Bruce Beresford's 1987 drama The Fringe Dwellers. He had a major supporting role in the international comedy blockbuster Crocodile Dundee II in 1988. He appeared as himself in the 1989 comedy Capuccino and had a major role in the 1991 Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World. In 1993 he starred in Blackfellas and had a lead role in 1996's Dead Heart. In 1998 he starred in Somewhere in the Darkness. In 2010 he returned to the silver screen with a role in the Aboriginal musical Bran Nue Dae along with Jessica Mauboy and Geoffrey Rush.

Dingo's first minor big break in television was in 1989 in the first season of Channel 7 sketch comedy TV show Fast Forward (1989–1992).

 

As an actor, he has also appeared in many Australian television series such as Blue HeelersThe Flying DoctorsHeartbreak High and Rafferty's Rules. He appeared in the TV mini-series' The Cowra Breakout (1984), A Waltz Through the Hills (1987), (for which he won an AFI Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama) and Kings in Grass Castles (1997).

He hosted the television program The Great Outdoors for 16 years from its beginning in 1993 to its end in 2009 and narrated the Indigenous segment of the 2000 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Sydney, New South Wales.

In May 2007, Dingo appeared as one of the celebrity performers on the celebrity singing competition reality show It Takes Two. Dingo also hosted the first series of No Leave, No Life, on Channel Seven.

In February 2012 Dingo and his family were featured in episode three of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) documentary series Family Confidential.

He appears in an episode of Serangoon Road, an Australian-Singaporean television drama series which premiered on 22 September 2013 on the ABC and HBO Asia. Also in 2013, Dingo is a Vietnam veteran, a retired Army drill sergeant facing his demons in episode six of the second series of Redfern Now, Dogs of War. The episode was shown at the Adelaide Film Festival in October 2013. In 2018 he played Keith Groves in the TV miniseries Mystery Road.

He is the host of the travel show Going Places with Ernie Dingo, airing on NITV (Channel 34), free to air TV in Australia, Sundays 7.30pm in 2018.

In 1994 Ernie was the first Aboriginal male actor to share an on-screen interracial kiss, playing the lead love interest to Cate Blanchett in the ABC series Heartland, (known as Burned Bridges in the United States).

He received the AFI Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Tele feature for A Waltz Through the Hills in 1988, after being nominated the previous year for Tudawali. He has also been nominated for an AFI/AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Television Drama in 1994 for Heartland and in 2013 for Redfern Now.

Not well known to most, Dingo is a talented visual artist, painting exquisite acrylic works on paper in subdued colours reminiscent of his traditional country. His precision a legacy of one of his first jobs as a sign writer.

He is a designated Australian National Living Treasure and  was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1990, in recognition of his service to the performing arts.

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