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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory

Charles (Charlie) Nelson Perkins (1936–2000)

Charles Perkins was born at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Aboriginal Reserve in the Northern Territory on 16 July 1936. His parents were Arrernte and Kalkadoon people. Removed from the Reserve at the age of 10 he was sent to a home for boys in Adelaide where he completed his schooling. He qualified as a fitter and turner in 1952. A talented soccer player, Perkins played as a professional with English club Everton, and on his return to Australia with Adelaide Croatian and the Sydney club, Pan–Hellenic.

While studying at Sydney University, Perkins became increasingly active in Aboriginal rights issues. In 1965 he gained notoriety by leading a group of fellow students on the 'Freedom Ride', a tour of rural New South Wales centres to highlight the discrimination that existed for Aboriginal people in many country towns.

Perkins joined the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs in 1969. His career grew with the Commonwealth's increasing role in Aboriginal issues. By 1984 he was Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

A well-known national figure who often attracted controversy, Perkins resigned his post in 1988 after a clash with his Minister over alleged financial mismanagement (the allegations were later dismissed).

In later years Perkins returned to live in Alice Springs. He was elected to the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Commission in 1993 and served as Deputy Chairman in 1994–95. He also served as a mentor to several of Australia's Aboriginal athletes.

Perkins died on 19 October 2000.

Selected records relating to Charlie Perkins
National Archives, Canberra
Enquiry by Charles Perkins regarding a position with the Department of Territories, 1961–62 A452, 1961/761
Familiarisation visit to the Northern Territory by Charles Perkins prior to his visit overseas, 1967 A452,1967/2371
Special Overseas Visits Fund – visits abroad – Charles Perkins, 1967–68 A1838, 574/3/91
Charles Perkins – representations on policy and administration in Aboriginal Affairs, 1971 A463, 1971/1328
United Nations human rights – Australian Aboriginals and other minorities (including Charles Perkins), 1971–77 A1838, 929/5/3 part 4
National Archives, Darwin
Charles (Charlie) Perkins, 1961–62 D4082, WB86
Enquiry by C Perkins – assistance in native welfare, 1961–73 F1, 1973/461
Report on Aboriginal freedom ride – Sydney University students, 1968 F1, 1968/2833
Request for Kormilda College (Darwin) teaching assistants – for public discussion with Charles Perkins, 1968 F1, 1968/4700


Chapter 16
Territory Personalities