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Charles Perkins AO

1936 – 2000

Charles Perkins AO (1936–2000) was an Indigenous rights campaigner and bureaucrat. Son of a Kalkadoon father and Arrernte mother, as a youth in Adelaide Perkins was a sought-after soccer player; after completing a trade apprenticeship, he played professionally in England. Widely credited as the first Indigenous person to graduate from an Australian university, he gained a BA from the University of Sydney in 1966. In 1965, he had been a prominent organiser of and participant in the anti-discrimination ‘freedom rides’ through country NSW. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s he was involved in many organisations promoting Aboriginal rights, welfare and advancement. In 1972, the year he received a kidney transplant, he appeared at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Five years later, having weathered a suspension from the Commonwealth Public Service and having published his autobiography, he joined the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, of which he was Secretary from 1984 to 1989. Perkins continued his involvement in various sports, particularly soccer, until he died. He was accorded a State funeral, held in Sydney.

Updated 2018