Cliff Coulthard (Fordy)

Dr Cliff Coulthard (Fordy)

  • Post Nominals: FAHA
  • Fellow Type: Honorary Fellow
  • Elected to the Academy: 2023


Dr Clifford Charles Coulthard (Fordy) as he was known, was born in old Leigh Creek on the 8th of March Nineteen Hundred and Fifty Three (as he used to say).  He was the first-born child of Clem and Lena Coulthard and Nunga (eldest brother).

Cliff was a strong man of culture and he had a depth of cultural knowledge not matched by many. He understood from a young age the importance of Adnyamathanha culture and this has been a focus throughout his whole life, this was something he was very passionate about throughout his whole life.

He left school at 15 and went to work on stations and droving 1000 head of cattle down the Birdsville Track to Marree where the cattle were loaded on the train.

He was integral in the establishment of Iga Warta a cultural tourism venture in the northern flinders ranges

Cliff has been immortalised on film over the years.

  • He was featured in the Six Australians back in the 1980s for the ABC.
  • he was in One Night the Moon alongside his brothers with Paul Kelly and Ruby Hunter

His film career was varied, he was a man of many talents for example in “The Life of Harry Dare” he was the Preacher and in his most recent film “Cargo”, he was a Zombie hunter!

Cliff had a very fulfilling career but the one thing that was constant was protecting, preserving and promoting Adnyamathanha culture.  Throughout his career he has really made a difference in so many ways.

  • He went to France and helped the French interpret their rock art in the Lascaux caves
  • He went to Penang as the Cultural advisor for the Sister Cities forum for Adelaide
  • He helped to prove that Adnyamathanha ochre was traded before the Ice Age
  • He was the first Aboriginal cultural teacher, paid a teacher’s wage in recognition of his cultural knowledge even though he didn’t have a teaching degree & assisted with the development of the Aboriginal Education Curriculum in the 1980’s
  • He worked in Department of the Arts and also at Tandanya and he worked as a consultant for the South Australian Tourism Commission developing the Dreaming Trail throughout the Flinders Ranges.
  • He was Chairperson of Artoowarapana Council and a board member on the Co-management board of Vulkathunha National Park for over 10 years.
  • He worked on many archaeologist digs over the years and he assisted many archaeologists to complete their thesis and they achieved their doctorates.
  • He took archaeologists to the Warratyi cave where together they proved that Adnyamathanha people interacted with megafauna 49,000 years ago. They found the oldest bone tool in the world and the oldest use of ochre in Australia and South East Asia.
  • Awarded a Doctorate through The Flinders University which recognised his work in cultural preservation over many years.
  • During NAIDOC Week 2023 he was honoured with the 2023 State NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year Award

He has left a legacy that will live on, Fordy had a wicked sense of humour and he was an amazing story teller, who always had people eating out of his hand whenever he was telling a story in his quiet, genuine way, Cliff was a world renowned Rock Art Expert and his loss has been felt across the nation and his cultural knowledge that is now lost is like closing a library or losing an encyclopaedia.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.