Actor Tom E Lewis dies aged 59

Renowned n musician and actor Tom E Lewis has died aged 59.Aboriginal actor and musician Tom E Lewis has been described as being happy and “full of energy” before his sudden death from natural causes in the Northern Territory on Thursday night.

Lewis, 59, was perhaps best knows for playing the title role as a 20-year-old in the 1978 Fred Schepisi film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.

But he had a long and distinguished acting and musical career over four decades that took him around the world.

He spent many years in Melbourne theatre, playing Shakespeare’s Othello and King Lear, and also wrote and produced his own work.

He co-wrote a short documentary film, Yellow Fella, that was the first n indigenous documentary selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.

Long-time friend and agent Joanna Milosz said she discovered Lewis when her musician friend Christopher Young told her he had met an “amazing didgeridoo player”.

When she went to meet him that day, she found them on St Kilda beach in Melbourne surrounded by passers-by improvising with the didgeridoo, clarinet and flute and producing “extraordinary” music.

Ms Milosz managed the Lewis & Young duo that toured the world and was involved in promoting Melbourne’s 1996 Olympic Games bid.

“He was multi-talented, quite an amazing, extraordinary human being, a very generous and open-hearted man on every level,” she told AAP.

“He touched a lot of people. The last few hours I have had people crying on the phone.”

She spoke to him earlier this week, saying he was “very chirpy”, talking about the future and coming down to Melbourne for work.

Lewis fought significant demons during his life, with alcohol being the biggest.

He said in an interview in 2007 that the late Northern Territory senator Bob Collins sexually abused him as a child.

Collins died a few days before he was due to face court on child sex charges involving another boy decades earlier in Arnhem Land, while other charges involving yet another child were dropped.

Despite his talent and success, Lewis became lost to drinking and partying in Melbourne, a long way from his Arnhem land home, Ms Milosz said.

However, he also met and fell in love with his long-time partner Fleur Parry, a theatre manager, with whom he had one of his children, a daughter.

They ultimately moved back to the Katherine region in the NT, where he grew up in Aboriginal culture and stayed.

They started and ran the successful Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation and annual Walking with the Spirits festival.

“She played a very important role with him finding himself again,” Ms Milosz said.

A family statement said he would be greatly missed.

“He will be forever remembered for his compelling and enduring work on stage and screen over 40 years, as a renowned musician, and as the driving force and vision behind Djilpin Arts with his partner and his extended family of Beswick and Arnhem Land communities.”

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