Indigenous elder Uncle Jack Charles wins lifetime achievement award

indigenous elder uncle jack charles
Photo: Maria Baranova

Indigenous elder Uncle Jack Charles has been honoured with the prestigious Red Ochre Award for lifetime achievement in the arts.

The 73-year-old Boon Wurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung man received the honour at the National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAA) in Sydney on Monday night.

Uncle Jack Charles is an actor, musician, gay man and beloved and respected elder.

His acting career spans six decades and he is widely acknowledged as the grandfather of Indigenous theatre in Australia.

He co-founded the first Aboriginal theatre company Nindethana with Bob Maza in 1972.

But Jack Charles has also seen many struggles. A member of the Stolen Generations, Uncle Jack battled drug addiction and homelessness and spent periods in Victoria’s prisons.

Charles’ life experiences and resilience can be seen into his art, his Indigenous activism. Now, he works with Indigenous prisoners to fight against recidivism.

Uncle Jack Charles among Indigenous artists honoured

The 12th National Indigenous Arts Awards, presented at the Sydney Opera House on Monday night, recognise the contributions of Indigenous artists to Australian culture.

Aunty Lola Greeno also received the Red Ochre Award on Monday night for her shell work.

Visual artist Jenna Lee received the Dreaming Award for a young and emerging artist, and theatre maker Jacob Boehme won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship.

The event is held on May 27 to coincide with the anniversary of the 1967 referendum.

Australians voted overwhelmingly in the referendum to amend the Constitution to allow Aboriginal people into the Census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them.

“On this auspicious date, it is significant that we are supporting and celebrating our First Nations artists at important stages in their careers,” Australia Council deputy chair Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin said.

“There is a profound sense of cultural strength as we acknowledge these artists from across the generations, from emerging to mid-career to some of our most celebrated and acclaimed elders.”

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