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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Charles Perkins with Eileen Perkins

1964 (printed 2021)
Robert McFarlane

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 33 cm x 22 cm, sheet: 42 cm x 33 cm)

Robert McFarlane took this intimate portrait of Charles and Eileen Perkins in their home in Sydney in 1964. As a youth in Adelaide Charles was a sought-after soccer player, playing professionally in England. He met Eileen in January 1961 at a soccer dance in Adelaide and they married in September that year. Soon after, the couple moved to Sydney, where Charles had been awarded a scholarship to study political science at Sydney University. Widely credited as the first Indigenous person to attain a bachelor's degree from an Australian university, in 1965 Charles was a prominent organiser of and participant in the anti-discrimination 'freedom rides' through country NSW. During the 1960s and 1970s he was involved in many organisations promoting Aboriginal rights, welfare and advancement. He and Eileen had two daughters, Hetti and Rachel, and a son, Adam.

According to McFarlane, the photograph was taken the same day as his famous image Charles Perkins on a bus to Tranby Aboriginal College, Glebe. Following their meeting, Perkins had asked McFarlane to return with him to his home. The evening was punctuated by phone calls regarding Perkins' work and activism, and McFarlane's photograph documents the degree to which Perkins' dedication could blur the distinction between home and work life. The photograph also suggests the invaluable and life-long support that Eileen provided to her husband.

Purchased with funds provided by Tim Bednall 2021
© Robert McFarlane/Copyright Agency, 2022

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Robert McFarlane (age 22 in 1964)

Charles Perkins AO (age 28 in 1964)

Eileen Perkins

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency