Image credit: Maria Baranova
Uncle Jack Charles, Red Ochre Award 2019
Uncle Jack Charles is a Boon Wurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung man, a beloved and respected elder, an actor, musician, potter and gifted performer. He is acknowledged as the grandfather of Aboriginal theatre in Australia and co-founded the first Aboriginal theatre company, Nindethana Theatre, with Bob Maza in 1972.
Charles’ acting career spans over six decades and has touched many across the globe. He has showcased his work in many nations including Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United States. His early career highlights include Cradle of Hercules (Old Tote Theatre); Ben Hall and Rush (ABC TV); and the feature film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.
But Charles has also seen many struggles. A member of the Stolen Generation, he has spent many years without a home, and in a cycle of addiction and prison time. His resilience shows through an extraordinary generosity of spirit, and his determination and passion for working with those ‘on the inside’. He can be heard in prisons, fighting against recidivism, saying “who better to talk to these men, then someone who understands all too well their experience”.
Jack Charles V The Crown, co-written by Charles and John Romeril, directed by Rachael Maza, was first produced by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company in 2010. The almost entirely autobiographical work Charles was able to bring the lived experience of being a member of the Stolen Generation to the world, with empathy and charm. The production won the Drovers Award for Best as well as a Helpmann Award for Best Regional Touring Production in 2012.
His recent credits include Gods of Wheat Street, Cleverman, Black Comedy, Play School (ABC TV); the feature film Pan (Berlanti Productions, RatPac-Dune Entertainment); and Wolf Creek (Stan).
In 2009 Charles was awarded the Tudawali Award at the Message Sticks Festival, honouring his lifetime contribution to Indigenous media. He was the recipient of a Green Room Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and in 2016 was named Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.