Uncle Jack Charles has lived his life with honesty, vitality and a zest for life that has inspired many to be better people. This is a man who has lived through turbulent times. One of the Stolen Generation incarcerated and a man who has triumphed to become one of Australia's leading performers, a First Nation Elder and a community leader.
Visit Uncle Jack Charles's website: www.facebook.com/unclejackcharles
Watch Jack Charles V The Crown through the Art Centre Melbourne, available from 7pm Friday 10 July until 7pm Friday 24 July.
Recommended for ages 15+. Contains strong language and adult themes.
Read his Performer Profile.
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An online Festival is completely new for us and we hope you enjoy the performances.
Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined 2020
Jack Charles versus the Crown - Week 10
My name is Tristan Meecham and welcome to the Victorian Seniors Festival, reimagined in 2020. The Victorian Seniors Festival have been honoured to feature exceptional Victorian and Australian artists in this series and today is no exception. In fact, it’s a personal honour to introduce Uncle Jack Charles. Uncle Jack Charles has lived his life with honesty, vitality and a zest for life that has inspired many to be better people. This is a man who has lived through turbulent times. One of the Stolen Generation incarcerated and a man who has triumphed to become one of Australia’s leading performers, a First Nation Elder and a community leader.
Uncle Jack Charles
My name’s Jack Charles and I am going to do some excerpts from Jack Charles versus the Crown, a one man performance page with three band members on the side, the pottery wheel on stage and my old rocking chair. We opened up in the Arts Centre with this wonderful production, followed hard after Barstady, the doco, was made about my life. Rachel Perkins, Rachel Maza wanted to do a Bastardy the stage show when an edited version of Bastardy was screened on the ABC. I chose John Romeril and Rachel Measure to - and the Ilbijerri Theatre to begin this process of writing the stage show. We spent about a year at Romeril’s place writing my memories. I realised that once I had jumped off all drugs and etc, I realised I’d had this remarkable memory. I wanted to tell the stories of what went on, further stories of what went on in the Box Hill Boys Home, with me being raised and white-washed in the blood of the lamb of Jesus Christ, being brainwashed from - from all senses of my Aboriginality.
The white-washing did work on me. I left the Box Hill Boys home, as everybody does at 14. The Salvos and the Aboriginal Welfare Board had set up a foster family for me, Widow Murphy and her twin sons and I went to live with them and the day after I left the Box Hill Boys Home, I went straight to work as a an apprentice glass beveller at RMS Glass in Riversdale Road, Hawthorn.
Well I liked the work and that. I got used to going in there, travelling by the red rattler from Blackburn into Auburn and walking up Auburn Road Hill and down to Riversdale Road and turning a hard left down to the factory and it was a great place to work in. My boss had this habit of bringing his old mates around to - to meet the little Aboriginal boy that was working in the back. Jack, I want you to meet another mate of mine. I said “Yeah, yeah, Alf. Who’s this one”. He says “Ah, Don. Don Bradman, meet Jack Charles”. So, I shook the hand of Donald Bradman, the great cricketer from South Australia. I never realised who he was. I wasn’t into sports. Now the boys at work knew full well that I was reputed to be an orphan but I told them, I believe that I had family and etc. So, two years into my apprenticeship, the boys cajoled me into heading on over to Fitzroy.
“The lot of you blackfellas over there, Jackie. I bet you got family amongst them” one of them said, you know. So, one Thursday night with a full pay packet that I normally hand over to Mrs Murphy back in Blackburn, I headed on over to Fitzroy and no sooner had I jumped off the tram on the corner of Napier and Gertrude Street with this old blackfella pulled me up. “Charles! You’re Brassy Charles’ boy” and I could - I shat myself. This old fella, he grabbed me and he hugs me and then he ushers me into the nearest hotel, The Builder’s Arms. I’ve entered another world. Every face in the place seemed to be black. Anyone who could, they rushed up to introduce themselves to me as an uncle, an auntie, a cousin. I’m so overwhelmed by their beery hugs. I dive into my pay packet, shared a few beers and I have a lemon squash myself.
“Your Mum, she living up in Swan Hill”, one old lady croaks. “You should go and say her, young fella”. “I will”, I tell her. First chance I get.
Well I get on late that night to Mrs Murphy. “Joy or joy, Mum, I just found Mum”. I expected her to share my joy but no such luck. She wrangles the story out of me. My night in the Fitzroy pub, being recognised as a Charles but, worse still, my pay packet ripped open and a third of it spent. This riles her no end. She comes at me “Those people will tell you anything”. “Well, I believed them”, I say, raising my hand. I see the fright in her eyes. Am I gonna hit her? “Get to bed”, she hisses before backing off.
No sooner had I put on my pyjamas and settled down for the night, when she calls me to the front door. A police divvy wagon is parked in the drive and I’m driven over to Royal Park Home for juvenile offenders. I was a ward of the state. A child of the Crown and would have been until I’m 18 and that woman I’d called Mum had deemed me unruly, disobedient. So, for the first time, locked alone in a cell, I remember crying myself to sleep. It seemed from then on after all, my Christian sensibilities were somewhat blackened and it became for me a series of incarcerations. Thank you.