Childhood & Early Life
Charles Nelson Perkins was born in the town of Alice Springs, Australia, on June 16, 1936. His mother, Hetty belonged to the Arrernte tribe while his father, Connelly was from the Kalkadoon ethnic group. The couple, who were never married, had twelve children.
The young boy studied at the 'St Mary's Church School' in his hometown, before pursuing his higher education from Adelaide's 'St Francis College for Aboriginal Boys', and the 'Metropolitan Business College', Sydney.
As a college student, he was employed by the 'South Sydney City Council', as a janitor.
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Perkins started his career as a soccer player in 1950, when he represented the football club, 'Port Thistle', in Adelaide. The following year he played for an under-18 team in South Australia, and went on to represent teams like Budapest, International United and Fiorentina.
In 1957, 'Liverpool F.C.', a professional 'English Premier League' soccer club asked Charles to train with them. However, he eventually trained with rival club, 'Everton F.C.', till he had an argument with a manager and quit.
From 1957-59, he represented a minor English football team called 'Bishop Auckland F.C.', before going back to Australia.
Back home, this talented soccer player joined the ‘Adelaide Croatia’ club as a captain. Here, he played alongside other famous athletes like John Moriarty, who was also his cousin, and Gordon Briscoe.
In 1965, Perkins got involved with the independence movement of the Aboriginals, against the white Australians. The same year, he participated in the 'Freedom Ride', inspired by 'US Civil Rights Freedom Ride', which was held in the United States.
The campaign was carried out in suburban areas like Kempsey, Walgett, and Moree, with the intention of showing everyone the discrimination faced by the aboriginals, especially with regards to health facilities and education.
In 1966, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Arts from the 'University of Sydney'.
The following year, in 1967, as a result of a public poll held to address issues related to aboriginals, an amendment was passed including the indigenous people in censuses. This poll, initiated by Perkins as the head of 'Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs', saw more than 90% of participants voting in favour of the tribes.
Two years later, the activist was appointed by the 'Office of Aboriginal Affairs' as a Senior Research officer. In 1981, he became the first aboriginal man to get employed as Permanent Secretary, for the 'Department of Aboriginal Affairs'.
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From 1981-84, he worked for the 'Aboriginal Development Commission', as the Chairman. During this time, he made it a point to protest against the activities of the government of his country, which were often considered racist.
In 1987, he became the Vice-President of the 'Australian Soccer Federation', and the Chairman of 'Indoor Soccer Federation'. Two years later, he was appointed by the 'Arrernte Council of Central Australia', as their Chairperson.
Charles served on the 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission' in 1993. The next year, he was promoted by the commission to the post of Deputy Chairperson.
Awards & Achievements
In 1987, Charles was awarded the rank of 'Officer of the Order' by the Government of Australia.
The 'National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee' ('NAIDOC') named this activist the 'Aboriginal of the Year', in 1993.
In 1998, he received an honorary doctorate in literature from the 'University of Western Sydney'. The 'University of Sydney' presented him with a doctorate in law two years later.
As recognition of his contribution to soccer, this brilliant activist was included Australia's 'Football Hall of Fame' in 2000.
Personal Life & Legacy
On September 23, 1961, this activist got married to Eileen Munchenberg, who was born in Germany. The couple had three children, Adam, Rachel, and Hetti—Hetti is an art conservator, while Rachel is a filmmaker.
This renowned activist succumbed to kidney failure on October 18, 2000, in Sydney, Australia.
Posthumously, a trust in his name has introduced scholarships that enable aboriginals in Australia to study at the 'University of Oxford'. Also, a department in the 'University of Sydney Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease' has been named after the famous activist.
This famous activist's life has been depicted in several documentaries like 'Freedom Ride', 'Fire Talker: The Life and Times of Charlie Perkins', and 'Remembering Charlie Perkins'.
'Freedom Ride' was made by Perkins' daughter Rachel, and Ned Landers. 'Fire Talker: The Life and Times of Charlie Perkins' is a documentary by Australian filmmaker Ivan Sen, while 'Remembering Charlie Perkins' is an oratory tribute featuring activist Gordon Briscoe.