Charles Perkins

Australian Aboriginal activist and football player, coach and administrator (1936-2000)

Charles Nelson Perkins, AO,[2] (16 June 1936 – 19 October 2000)[3] was an Australian activist and Aboriginal leader. He was also a professional football player.

Charles Perkins
Charles Perkins talking with Aboriginal residents at Moree, February 1965 - The Tribune (20153364632) (cropped).jpg
at Moree, February 1965
Born(1936-06-16)16 June 1936[1]
Died19 October 2000(2000-10-19) (aged 64)
Cause of deathRenal failure
Other namesCharlie Perkins, Kumantjayi Perkins
EducationBachelor of Arts
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Known forActivism, Public Service, Sport
Spouse(s)Eileen Munchenberg
ChildrenHetti, Rachel and Adam

Perkins grew up in Alice Springs. His mother was Arrernte, and his father was Kalkadoon.[4] He later moved to Sydney, and graduated from the University of Sydney in 1965. He was the first indigenous Australian to graduate from a university.

Perkins campaigned for Aboriginal land rights. In 1965, he was an important person in the Freedom Ride campaign, which aimed to raise public awareness of the standards of living, literacy and health conditions among the Aboriginal population. The group was famous for publicising acts of discrimination.

Perkins was also important in the campaign for the referendum in 1967, which allowed Aboriginal people to be counted in censuses, and parliament to make special laws specifically for Aboriginal people. From 1969, Perkins worked as a public servant in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. He was made permanent secretary of this department in 1981, which made him the first Aboriginal to become the permanent head of a federal government department. He served as secretary until 1988.

Perkins died in October 2000 of kidney failure.[4][5]


  1. Read, Peter (2001). Charles Perkins: a biography. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books. p. 351. ISBN 0-14-100688-9.
  2. "Officer of the Order of Australia". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  3. Perkins, Charles (1975). A Bastard like me. Sydney: Ure Smith. p. 199. ISBN 0-7254-0256-3.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Papers of Charles Perkins (1936–2000)". National Library of Australia. April 2002. Retrieved 2007-01-20.
  5. "Hetty Perkins discusses kidney research fundraising". PM. ABC Radio. Retrieved 2009-10-08.

Further readingEdit

  • Perkins, Charles (1975). A Bastard like me. Sydney: Ure Smith. ISBN 0-7254-0256-3.
  • Read, Peter (1990). Charles Perkins: a biography. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking. ISBN 0-14-013280-5.

Other websitesEdit