News

Makia’s dream journey comes true

By John Lewis

Three weeks after appealing for help to visit her dying movie legend father David Gulpilil, Shepparton's Makia McLaughlin has realised her dream.

Last week the 30-year-old travelled to Murray Bridge in South Australia to spend five days with her 66-year-old father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago.

“I feel so much more relaxed now — I'm not stressed. I know how he is now,” Ms McLaughlin said.

At the end of September, the Shepparton-based art student started a Go Fund Me web page to help fund a trip to see her terminally ill father — who has appeared in iconic Australian films such as Walkabout, Storm Boy, Crocodile Dundee and Australia.

At the time, Ms McLaughlin said she wanted to spend some quality time with her dad after not seeing him for two years.

“I don't want to burden him. I'm not going to ask him for money,” she said.

After reaching the halfway stage of her targeted $5000, she boarded a bus for the 10-hour journey from Shepparton to Murray Bridge on October 8.

When she arrived at her father's unit, she said he was surprised to see her.

“He knew I was coming — but he didn't know when. He was in a chair but he stood up real quick and said 'my daughter',” Ms McLaughlin said.

“I hugged him straight away and put my hand on his face. I was just so happy.

“He looked well and he was talking. His carer said he was real relaxed because I was there.”

She said her father spent a lot of time resting, and she would lie on his bed next to him and hold his hand.

“He'd call out to me if I was in another room. Just being quiet, just knowing I was there was relaxing him.”

Ms McLaughlin said one day she tried to catch a fish for her dad, but they weren't biting. So she ended up buying a big barramundi — her father's favourite meal.

“I served him first — and by the time I'd served it up to everyone else, he'd already finished his. He really enjoyed it."

Ms McLaughin, who was brought up in foster care, did not know who her father was until she was 16 years old.

She said during the visit her father encouraged her to make a film about her own life.

“He said you could call it 'Looking for Dad'. Then we started laughing, " she said.

Before they parted, the actor gave his daughter a signed copy of a new book about his life — Gulpilil by author Derek Rielly.

Ms McLaughlin now aims to return to Murray Bridge for Christmas, when many Yolngu family members plan to visit from East Arnhem.

She thanked everyone who had helped her raise money for her journey, and said she would keep her Go Fund Me page open until Christmas.