Uncle Jack Charles asked to prove Aboriginality


Aboriginality uncle jack charles sbs who do you think you are
Photo: SBS

One of Australia’s most celebrated First Nations elders has been asked to prove his Aboriginality. Actor, musician, activist, gay man, and respected elder Uncle Jack Charles said he received a phone call demanding proof of Aboriginality prior to receiving an $80,000 instalment under the Stolen Generations Reparation scheme.

The Wiradjuri, Boon Warrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man previously appeared on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are on SBS. The show used his DNA to identify his father, proving his Aboriginality, in his own words, ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’.

Authorities removed now 78-year-old Uncle Jack from his parents at just four months. He described discovering family after seven decades of separation as healing.

Uncle Jack told ABC Radio that he previously received a first $20,000 instalment without issue. He received the payments from Victoria’s Stolen Generations Reparations Package. The scheme pays compensation for the suffering caused by the forced removal of Aboriginal children from families and communities.

Uncle Jack said a committee staff member rang him demanding proof of his Aboriginality despite his high profile.

“But the point of fact here is that it’s me they’re talking to — a well-known, Aboriginal person.

“It strikes me that they can’t differentiate between people [who] are taking advantage of the system and the likes of myself.”

However, Uncle Jack said the person who rang said too many people falsely claimed to be Indigenous.

He wondered why anyone would falsely pass themselves off as Indigenous.

“It’s too difficult to be an Aboriginal.”

“It’s too difficult to be an Aboriginal. Have a look at what I’m struggling through right now, hitting 79 in September and I’m still being bedevilled and perplexed.”

Uncle Jack said the questioning of his identity left him re-traumatised — ‘this very questioning of who I am’.

The prominent Australian arts figure said this was the second time he has had his Aboriginality questioned.

Previously, in 2012, the Australia Council, demanded he prove his eligibility for a grant to write a book.

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