Revered Aboriginal elder, actor and stolen generation child dies aged 79

Revered Aboriginal elder, actor and stolen generation child dies aged 79

Uncle Jack Charles - Image Twitter@First Peoples' Assembly

Uncle Jack Charles, revered Aboriginal elder, actor and a stolen generation child died peacefully in a Melbourne hospital after suffering a stroke.

His death was announced by his publicist on Tuesday, September 13 prompting an outpouring of condolences for the family of the man known as the grandfather of indigenous theatre.

Although he is known for his work in starting indigenous theatre, he rose to prominence in mainstream films including The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Bedevil (1993) and Blackfellas (1993).

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Charles “leaves a joyous legacy” while young indigenous performers who worked with him remembered Charles as a “warm, funny and friendly soul.”

They added he was “true royalty” a man they were honoured to know, a friend, an uncle.

His family said: “We are so proud of everything he has achieved… Elder, actor, musician, potter, activist, mentor, a household name and voice loved by all.”

A member of the so-called stolen generation, Charles was forcibly removed from his family as part of now-infamous policies aimed at “assimilating” Aboriginal children into white families.

That led to many years in state care where he was physically and sexually abused, trauma that saw him spend his first years as an adult in and out of prison.

Acting he said saved his life. In 1971 he started the Melbourne Aboriginal Theatre before landing roles in many of Australia’s best movies from the time.

But Charles was best known for his advocacy role with Aboriginal prisoners. That led to his being officially recognised for his work, of which he said: “I’ve been an actor since I was 19, but I lost a lot of work because of white powders and jail time.

“I dearly would’ve loved an Aboriginal elder like me to come and tweak my conscience.

“I’ve had the breaks in my life – now I want to make sure other young Indigenous kids get theirs.”

The death of the revered Aboriginal elder, actor and stolen generation child follows hot on the heels of the death of another revered elder – the Queen.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at