Charles Perkins

Aboriginal Activist

Life of Perkins

The eventful life Perkins lived began when he was born on a table in the Alice Springs telegraph station on the 16th of June, 1936. What a great way to start life, on a table. Perkins was an Aboriginal man who strived for equality within the Aboriginal society.

He was born into a large family consisting of his 11 brothers and sisters. Even though he was not a part of the 'Stolen Generations', was taken away from his family.

He earned a good wage with his soccer career, but due to the spending he constantly did, he was unable to pay for his doctor fees, which was a terrible mistake. His kidney disease became increasingly worse as the years went by and he passed away because of it on the 18th of October, 2000 in Sydney.


As being the first Aboriginal to graduate university in 1966, he made a significant mark onto the Aboriginal society. Graduating uni with a Bachelor of Arts, giving hope to all Aboriginal men and women of Australia, that they too could get the education they deserved.

The journey of University was initiated when he was accepted into Sydney University, because of his talent of soccer, it funded him through the whole adventure of his higher education.

He spent 3 years in the university from 1963 till 1966, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. During his study at the university, he became progressively more involved in the fight for Indigenous rights.

In the honour of Dr. Perkins, Sydney University have a centre named after him. In the centre their mission is to improve the quality of life by studying the main health issues in Australia, eg, obesity.

Rights and Freedoms for All

Due to the separation of Perkins and his grandmother, it encouraged him to fight for the rights the Aboriginal people deserved. Another encouraging factor was that he saw the intense discrimination and was determined to make a difference. Carrying out this passion of equality for all people, when he was asked the reason why he attended university he said, "That degree was going to help me since I graduated: to take a position in Aboriginal Affairs that was, I believe, principled and strong and aggressive and whatever the consequences, to go for it. And to attack racism and the disadvantaged position of Aboriginal people and rednecks and sacred cows and all the inequalities that Aboriginal people face in Australian society." This quote demonstrates the enthusiasm he had towards gaining that equal society. His passion lead him to protest about this issue, organising his own version of a freedom ride and gathering 28 non-Aboriginal uni students to travel around rural towns in NSW to promote racism and the discrimination all Aboriginal people were facing.

When the tour arrived at Walgett, it was forced to stop due to the rowdy protesting.

The year after Charles Perkins graduated university, the 1967 referendum was introduced, allowing Aboriginal people to be included in the census - the first step to them being recognised as people of the country, even though they had been allowed to vote since 1962 and had been recognised as Australian citizens in 1948, this was a large step towards the equality within the society.

After the referendum, the Aboriginal people's point of view was noticed and considered, unlike before this event.

Short Term Successes

Soccer was Perkins' most grand passion. Turning his soccer dream into a reality in England, playing for the well known English Premier League team, Everton and later returning to Australia to further pursue his dream of soccer in South Australia playing for the Croatian team.

The significance of him joining an EPL team in that time period was quite peculiar. A "black" man joining a white soccer team in England. It is quite surprising to see an Aboriginal man on an English team.

Long Term Achievements

All of the protesting, his graduating from Sydney University, joining the Commonwealth Public Service, starting his own freedom ride, making several soccer teams; he became the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1984. Soon after in 1988, he was discharged from the position after arguing with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Perkins was the first Aboriginal person to be appointed the head of a government department; Order of Australia in 1987; Aborigine of the year in 1993; and the vice president of the Australian Soccer Federation.

During this time in history, having all of these achievements, including being the first Aboriginal to graduate university; was an accomplishment as possessing Aboriginal blood and not having "white" skin, made him lower in society. People saw him as an actual human being because of his strong will for equality.