Tributes are flowing for celebrated Indigenous actor, musician and Elder Uncle Jack Charles, who sadly passed away aged 79.
NOTE: Uncle Jack Charles’ family has given permission to use his name and image.
In a statement released on Facebook, Uncle Jack’s publicist confirmed the beloved Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta Elder suffered a stroke and passed away peacefully at Royal Melbourne Hospital on Tuesday morning.
“Before he passed away, his family were able to send him off on Country during a smoking ceremony at the Royal Melbourne Hospital,” the statement said.
“We are so proud of everything he has achieved in his remarkable life — Elder, actor, musician, potter, activist, mentor, a household name and voice loved by all — as is demonstrated by his numerous awards including this year’s NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year.
“He will live on in our hearts and memories and through his numerous screen and stage roles.
“May he be greeted by his Ancestors on his return home.”
A survivor of the Stolen Generations, Uncle Jack was just four months old when he was taken from his mother.
He was taken to a city mission in Brunswick and then moved to the Salvation Army Boys’ Home at Box Hill in Melbourne, where he experienced child sexual abuse.
In April this year, Uncle Jack became the first Indigenous Elder to tell his story at Victoria’s Indigenous truth-telling commission.
“It’s hard to convey the damage that place did to me,” he told the inquiry.
“It wasn’t just the abuse that traumatised me, the Box Hill Boys’ Home stripped me of my Aboriginality.”
Uncle Jack was instrumental in establishing Indigenous theatre in Australia. In 1971, he co-founded the country’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, with Bob Maza at Melbourne’s Pram Factory.
Uncle Jack appeared in myriad Australian films, including The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Bedevil, Blackfellas, Tom White and Mystery Road. He also forged a career in theatre, starring in Jack Charles Vs The Crown which was staged in Melbourne in 2010.
More recently, he starred in the ABC drama series Cleverman and the ABC comedy Preppers. He also appeared in SBS’ Who Do You Think You Are? where he learned about his family’s connection to country in both Victoria and Tasmania.
Uncle Jack published his memoir Uncle Jack: Born-again Blakfella in 2019.
He was also advocated for the rights of Indigenous men in custody, working alongside late Uncle Archie Roach to support them.
Myriad people and organisations have paid their respects to Uncle Jack in powerful tributes.
I met Uncle Jack Charles doing Cleverman. You’d never have met a more warm, funny & friendly soul. Uncle Jack & Uncle Arch gonna be in good company wherever they’re at. pic.twitter.com/qhBCc5qkgN— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) September 13, 2022
RIP 👑 Uncle Jack Charles— Meyne Wyatt (@meynewyatt) September 13, 2022
The greatest, kindest, most wonderfully talented man. And friend. Bow Down. pic.twitter.com/pC8mNzrLHD
Thoughts are with all the mob, hearing about Uncle Jack Charles today. When I interviewed him last year he was funny, warm and gracious, even while recounting his long journey to find his family after being removed as a child. His strength and his laugh were a gift— Laura Murphy-Oates (@lauramoates) September 13, 2022
Just devastated to learn that Uncle Jack Charles has died.— Magda Szubanski AO (@MagdaSzubanski) September 13, 2022
My heart goes out to his family, friends and all First Nations people.
He was just the absolute best and this is such a loss
RIP my darling
I'm deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Uncle Jack Charles this morning.— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) September 13, 2022
What a life. What a storyteller. Unforgettable wit and energy and generosity and courage.
Vale Uncle Jack Charles. pic.twitter.com/JbeNiocuWd— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) September 13, 2022
It was with great sadness I learned today of the passing of Uncle Jack Charles.— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) September 13, 2022
We have lost a legend of Australian theatre, film and creative arts.
Vale Uncle Jack. pic.twitter.com/C82cMIzUrC
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has paid his respects to Indigenous actor, musician and activist Uncle Jack Charles, who died aged 79.— SBS News (@SBSNews) September 13, 2022
Read more here: https://t.co/iCJ0X2QNdU pic.twitter.com/X1pbE7EzOG
So much heartache across Community.— First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria (@firstpeoplesvic) September 13, 2022
RIP Uncle Jack Charles.
This country has lost a true King.
Rest in peace, Uncle Jack Charles.