Life On The Job


Indigenous Famous Person's Story

Dr. Charles Nelson Perkins (16 June 1936 – 18 October 2000) - PUBLIC SERVANT

Charles Perkins

 

Introduction

Charles Nelson Perkins, AO, commonly known as Charlie Perkins, (16 June 1936 - 19 October 2000) was an Australian Aboriginal activist, football player and administrator. He was known as Kumantjayi Perkins in the period immediately following his death. "Kumantjayi" is a name used to refer to a deceased person in Arrernte culture. Charles Perkins was born in Alice Springs, originally from nearby Arltunga, and Martin Connelly, originally from Mount Isa, Queensland. His mother was born to a white father and an Arrernte mother, while his father was born to an Irish father and a Kalkadoon mother. Perkins had one full sibling and nine other half-siblings (from his mother). He married Eileen Munchenberg on 23 September 1961 and had two daughters (Hetti and Rachel) and one son (Adam).

Between 1952 and 1957, Perkins worked as an apprentice fitter and turner for the British Tube Mills company in Adelaide.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Stamp

Charles (Charlie) Perkins was an Aboriginal activist, public service administrator and soccer player. He was one of the key members and organisers of the 1965 Freedom Ride – a bus tour of country NSW that highlighted discrimination against Aboriginal people. In 1967 he was manager of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs that advocated the β€˜Yes’ vote in the referendum to count Aboriginal people in the Australian census.

Perkins played soccer in Australia and overseas from 1950 to 1969, and in England he trialled with Liverpool F.C. and Manchester United. He held coaching and administrative positions in the sport, and in 2000 became a member of the Football Federation of Australia Football Hall of Fame.

Perkins held senior positions in the Commonwealth Public Service from 1967 to the mid 1990s, working to improve conditions for Aboriginal people. During his life he received a number of awards for his work for Indigenous Australians. (Source: Fairfax)

Early Life

Charles Perkins was born in Alice Springs; his mother was Arrente and his father Kalkadoon. He was removed from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Aboriginal Reserve when he was 10 and educated at St Francis House, a school established by Father Percy Smith in Adelaide to educate Aboriginal boys. He trained initially as a fitter and turner but, being a gifted soccer player, he played professionally for the English club, Everton, then on his return to Australia with the Adelaide Croatian and the Sydney Pan-Hellenic Clubs. (Source: National Museum of Australia)

Education:

He was educated at St Mary's Church School in Alice Springs, St Francis College for Aboriginal Boys in Adelaide, the Metropolitan Business College, Sydney and the University of Sydney from where he graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts. He was the first Aboriginal man in Australia to graduate from university. (Source: Wikipedia)

Graduation photo with his family
Photo from YouTube: showing Charles, his wife Eileen and his mother Hetty.

When he entered the University, he "couldn't wait for the first lecture and when I got there I was ready to do my degree in five minutes." Education for him was, he said, "like water on a dry sponge". He studied Government, Psychology, Anthropology, and Social Theory. He failed his first anthropology examination, but the next day, he recalls, "I was back there and I was working twice as hard." He still found time to become involved in activities such as Student Action for Aborigines and the Freedom Ride through western New South Wales. He writes of being in Sydney University's Great Hall on Graduation Day in 1965 as the first Aborigine in the whole of Australia to become a university graduate, where "they gave me a tremendous cheer in the hall and I did not expect it. I was very pleased". (Source: Sydney University)

In 2000, Sydney University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law. (Source: Obituary Australia)

Sydney University conferring a Doctorate
(Source: Sydney University)

Did You Know?

The Charles Perkins Centre was named in honour of Perkins, the first Aboriginal graduate of the University of Sydney and the first Indigenous male to graduate from an Australian university. Construction began in late 2013. It was built on a budget of $385 million.

Perkins serves as the symbolic face of the centre, aimed at researching and finding solutions to various illnesses, with over 900 clinicians, students and researchers.

Professor Steve Simpson said that "He [Perkins] sought to lead collaborations in situations where a single person or agency could not deliver. In the same way, the Charles Perkins Centre looks beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to improve the health of individuals, communities and the nation".[3] Perkins' wife, Eileen and their daughters Hetti, Rachel and son Adam attended the black-tie opening of the building in June 2014.
(Source: Wikiwand: Charles Perkins Centre)

Staircase
Staircase at Charles Perkins Centre


Employment & Training:

Charles Perkins was instrumental in the 1967 referendum, as he and his company Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs advocated a "yes" vote in allowing the inclusion of Aboriginal people into the census and allowing the Parliament of Australia the right to make legislation only concerning Aboriginals, thereby granting them the rights of full Australians. The referendum became the most successful in Australian history, with 90.77% of the Australian community voting "yes".

In the post-referendum era, Charles Perkins first went on a Senior Research Officer with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in 1969. However, in 1972, as a public servant he called the Liberal - Country Coalition government in Western Australia 'racist and redneck', and was suspended for alleged improper conduct.

In 1981 he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the first Aboriginal to become a permanent head of a federal government department. He served as Chairman of the Aboriginal Development Commission between 1981 and 1984. Throughout his career he was a strident critic of Australian Government's policies on indigenous affairs and was renowned for his fiery comments. Australian ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke once commented that he (Perkins) : "sometimes found it difficult to observe the constraints usually imposed on permanent heads of departments because he had a burning passion for advancing the interests of his people". Perkins held the position of Secretary until 1988.

In 1989, he became Chair of the Arrente Council of Central Australia. In 1993 Perkins was elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission commissioner for an area of the central Northern Territory. In 1994 he was elected Deputy Chairperson of ATSIC.
(Source: Wikidot)

 

Experiences & Opportunities: 

Did You Know?


Freedom Ride 1965


In 1965 Perkins, one of two Aboriginal students at the University of Sydney (the other was Gary Williams), was keen to find a way to publicise the Aboriginal cause.

This led to the formation of Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) and the decision to organise a bus tour of western New South Wales towns. About 30 students, led by Perkins, travelled to Walgett, Moree, Kempsey and other towns exposing discrimination in the use of halls, swimming pools, picture theatres and hotels. In a number of towns Aboriginal returned servicemen were only permitted entry to the Returned Service League clubs on Anzac Day.

Freedom Ride Map
Freedom Ride Map
(Source: Freedom Rides)

Freedom Ride
(Source: ABC: Splash)

This trip became known as the Freedom Ride and assumed iconic status as the students ensured that they had press coverage for the conflicts which occurred in these towns. Their effective use of television brought the issue of racial discrimination in country towns to national attention. Perkins' role in this action propelled him to a position as a national Aboriginal leader and spokesman, a position he held until his death.
(Source: Indigenous Rights)


Living Black
Watch the video in memory of the Freedom Rides
(Source: SBS: Living Black)

YouTube: Charles Perkins and Others On Freedom Ride (Aboriginal Australia)
(URL: https://youtu.be/QyOA9DiglPY)

 

 

YouTube: Charles Perkins
(URL: https://youtu.be/u0-iRcU0PFo)

 

 

Links

Australian Biography

Australian Biography


ABC Splash

ABC Splash
National Portrait Gallery

NPG


The Guardian - 21st February 2015

The Guardian
Australian Screen

Australian Screen
ABC: Behind the News: Freedom Ride

BTN

Obituaries Australia

Obit Australia

Wikiwand: Charles Perkins Centre

Charles Perkins Centre
Indigenous Australia

Indigenous Australia

Charles Perkins & the Freedom Rides

For Freedom
Sydney Morning Herald - Freedom Ride
18/02/2015


Freedom Ride
Sports & Editorial Services: Charles Perkins
Sports


Activities

How is Charles Perkins portrayed?

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

1. Have a look at the following two portraits of Charles Perkins:

Painting of Charlie Perkins
A Portrait of Charles Perkins, painted by Australian cartoonist Bill Leak
(Source: Riding for Freedom)

Portrait of Charles Perkins
Portrait of Charles Perkins by Robert Campbell Jnr
(Source: Ears2theGround)

1. Which portrait appeals to you more? Why?

2. Having read about Charles Perkins and seen lots of images of him, which portrait is the closest to the man?

3. You are now to investigate how to draw a caricature from a photo:

Caricature

4. Using this knowledge, create a caricature of Charles Perkins

 

WebQuests

Riding for Freedom: the campaign for civil rights for Indigenous Australians

High SchoolSecondary

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

1. The Riding for Freedom WebQuest [now off the Internet - was at http://ridingforfreedom.yolasite.com/ ]  has a resounding challenge to all young Australians in the Conclusion:

WQ Riding for Freedom

 

Conclusion: "It is hoped that by completing this WebQuest, you will better understand the significance of the Freedom Rides for indigenous Australians. The Freedom Rides were an example of how an individual or small groups can play an important and necessary role in the democratic process of our nation. Several of the social, political and cultural developments that have occurred in our nation were influenced by individuals or small groups, like Charles Perkins and his fellow Freedom Riders. Due to their campaign against racism, discrimination and segregation, indigenous Australians now enjoy the same rights and freedoms as non-indigenous Australians.

Now that you have studied all about Charles Perkins and his fellow Freedom Riders, it is your responsability to oppose racism, discrimination and segregation in all its forms. Do your part to make Australia a more just society.


After all, it's what Charles Perkins would have wanted."

2. Reflection

Reflection.

You are to reflect on "your part to make Australia a more just society".

  • What specific actions can you undertake?

  • By yourself?

  • With others?

  • At school?

  • In the sports grounds and clubs?

  • In your words and actions when with friends?

Discussion

Discuss with a partner.

3. Will you challenge a family member[s] who has racist views? How?

4. Write a Reflection in your Journal in answer to these questions.

 

 

 

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