Tributes continue to flow for legendary actor, author and activist Uncle Jack Charles, who sadly passed away at age 79.
The Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta Senior Elder suffered a stroke and passed away peacefully at Royal Melbourne Hospital.
In a statement released by his publicist, the family said they were able to send him off on Country during a smoking ceremony, before he passed on Tuesday morning.
“We are so proud of everything he has achieved in his remarkable life – Elder, actor, musician, potter, activist, mentor, a household name and voice loved by all – as is demonstrated by his numerous awards including this year’s NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year.
“He will live on in our hearts and memories and through his numerous screen and stage roles. May he be greeted by his Ancestors on his return home.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the Great Uncle Jack, who is a member of the Stolen Generations, at a press conference on Tuesday, saying he “uplifted the nation with his heart, genius, and creativity”, despite enduring tremendous pain.
Earlier this year, Uncle Jack Charles was the first Aboriginal Elder to give evidence at Victoria’s Yoorrook Justice Commission, a state inquiry examining both past and ongoing injustices experienced by First Peoples in Victoria.
Charles spoke of his childhood when he was forcibly removed from his family and placed at Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he experienced both physical and sexual violence for 12 years.
“I do remember crying myself to sleep,” Charles said. “I wasn’t even told I was Aboriginal – I had to discover that for myself,” he told the public hearings in April.
Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman and Minister for Indigenous Australians, said Charles was a “ground-breaking storyteller and activist who brought people in with his warmth and grace, never shying away from his past and who he was.”
“[He] offered a window for many Australians to see the enduring pain of survivors of the stolen generations and inspired people with his strength of character and resilience,” she said in a statement.
In 1971, Charles co-founded the country’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana Theatre at Melbourne’s Pram Factory, alongside close friend and actor Uncle Bob Maza.
Actress, director Rachael Maza is the co-CEO of the Ilbijerri theatre company, a Melbourne-based Indigenous theatre company, and son of the late Bob Maza.
Back in 2010, Rachael directed Uncle Jack Charles in the one-man show, ‘Jack Charles V The Crown’, which tells the story of his own life, from Stolen Generations to the Koori theatre in 70s as well as his time in and out of Victoria’s prisons.
Aunty Rachael remembered her friend as an inspirational role model and generous spirit.