Pioneering Indigenous actor David Dalaithngu AM has died aged 68. 

Dalaithngu was from the Mandhalpuyngu clan of the Yolŋgu people and was raised in Arnhem land.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains an image of a person who has died.

Dalaithngu was better known by a different surname at the height of his stardom, but the ABC has been advised that for Indigenous cultural reasons that name can't be used.

Wityana Marika, Dalaithngu's son by lore and Higher Ground actor from the Rirritjingu clan said the Yolŋgu man left a legacy. 

"We are grieving the loss of our famous Yolŋgu man who started a great journey on his own. That name he carried, speaks for itself. That name he carried he was born powerful," he said.

“He came from the bush and became our biggest and brightest star for all Yolŋgu people and all races. I thank him, love him, rest in peace my father.” 

News of the actor's passing was shared in a statement from South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

"It is with deep sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen – David Dalaithngu AM," said the statement. 

"An actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen."

Dalaithngu was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and was told he only had months to live.

A documentary about his life was created following the diagnosis — about the actor’s journey.

Mr Marshall wrote: "I was lucky enough to meet David Dalaithngu on a number of occasions – most recently in March this year at the premiere of a documentary about his life — in which he tells his own story, directed by Molly Reynolds."

"This final film, 50 years after his breakthrough on screen, saw David Dalaithngu credited for the first time in his career as a producer — alongside Reynolds, filmmaker Rolf de Heer and Yolŋgu filmmaker Peter Djigirr.

"He was a man who loved his land and his culture, and he was a man who took it to the world."

Speaking from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory Wityana Marika said family in Ramingining and Melbourne would communicate about plans to bring the actor back to his homeland for ceremony.

“The ceremony will be held in his homeland (Marwuyu).  Every actor who wants to come the name will call them to his homeland," he said.

"All the clan is going to come around and celebrate the connection, celebrate the spirituality and celebrate him."

Pioneering the big screen

Dalaithngu was cast in Walkabout in 1971, making him one of the first Aboriginal characters portrayed on the big screen. 

He was also celebrated for his role in 1976 film Storm Boy. 

In 1987, he was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia. 

The family of Dalaithngu has advised that his name and image may be used in accordance with his wishes, following his passing.