Perkins, Charles

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Perkins was born in Alice Springs. His father was an Aboriginal; sources differ about whether his mother was an Aboriginal or European.

When he was 10 he became one of the Stolen Generation (see Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children), sent to a boarding school in Adelaide. (He was actually taken with his mother's permission, but given under great pressure). (According to another source, he was raised at the Bungalow Mission in South Australia, where his mother was in charge of the girls' dormitory.)

He became one of the most influential Aboriginals in history: the first Aboriginal to graduate from a university (Sydney, 1966), and the highest-ranking Aboriginal civil servant (Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, 1983). He received the Order of Australia in 1987, was named Aboriginal of the Year in 1993, and was awarded an honorary LLD by Sydney University in 2000. He was a founder of the Australian Aboriginal Cricket Association, a member of the Olympic Indigenous Advisory Board, president of the Arrernte Council of Central Australia, a consultant to the Australian Sports Commission, and deputy chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. He was outspoken in his criticism of racism in the Australian government and the paternalism of his own government department. In 1965 he led the Freedom Ride, similar to those in the US South, exposing rampant segregation in rural Australia. He was a passionate sportsman, and was rated one of the best soccer players in the country in his youth. He emigrated to the UK temporarily and played for Everton Football Club (Liverpool) in the 1950s.

He suffered from chronic kidney disease for many years, and had a transplant in 1972: on his death he was the longest surviving kidney transplant patient.


Monash Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Australia, general editors John Arnold and Deirdre Morris. (Port Melbourne: Reed Reference Publishing, 1994)
Perkins, Charles. A Bastard Like Me. (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1975)
"Aboriginal: Charles Perkins." Available at:
"Message Stick: Story Information: Scholar, Athlete, Warrior - Tribute to Dr. Kumiantjayi Perkins." [Includes portraits]. Available from:
Who's Who in Australia 2001. (Melbourne: Information Australia Group, 2000)
Geia, Jeremy. "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Online News: A Tribute to Dr. Kumiantjayi Perkins (1936-2000)." [Includes portraits]. Available at:
Jopson, Debra. "A Life in Black and White." [Includes portraits]. Available at: www://
Rae, Peter. "Charles Perkins: A Man with a Burning Passion." [Includes portrait]. Available at:
Pilger, John. "Fixed Race." [Broadcast 21 August 1999]. Available at:


Australian Aboriginal
Uk/great Britain
20th Century
Civil Rights, Advocacy
Government, Politics, Civil Service, Public Administration
Self-made Men and Women
Birth Identity Disputed or Deliberately Concealed
Medical Problems, Chronic Illness
School-age Years, Adolescence
Government Policy, Assimilation
Institutional Care
Parents Married (or Partnered) to Each Other
Related Topics
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