Black Screen | Charles Perkins Biography

I remember the civil liberties coordinating committee (CLCC) asking Charlie Perkins to come to Brisbane to participate in the Democratic right struggles (1977-78) against the Queensland government. Sure enough Charlie turned up, made a radical speech calling on people to march against police, and promptly went back down south. To be fair Charlie had a kidney transplant and was in no fit state to take on the Queensland police. We post this film here as a tribute to an authentic and honest Aboriginal warrior.

– Ian Curr Ed. WBT

National Film and Sound Archive


In this interview, Charles Perkins gives his own account of his early life in Alice Springs and Adelaide, his youth as a soccer star, his work on behalf of Aboriginal people and his vision for the future of Australia.

The first Aboriginal man to graduate from university, Charles Perkins was also one of the most controversial of Aboriginal leaders. As a pioneering Aboriginal spokesperson and bureaucrat, his determined and occasionally combative stance and his energetic entrepreneurial and reformist activities earned him many enemies as well as admirers.

Perkins’ involvement in the Freedom Ride through rural New South Wales in the early 1960s played a crucial role in demonstrating that Aboriginal people could stand up for themselves. His work as a public servant in Canberra brought about many advances for Aboriginal people, but also attracted a great deal of criticism, culminating in his eventual sacking by the Hawke Government.

This was followed by an inquiry, which cleared him of the charges that were brought against him. Although he did not return to government administration, he continued to speak out on Aboriginal issues.

This program explores the personal experiences that fuelled his restless energy. It seeks to find the roots of the great anger against white injustice that landed him in so much trouble in the course of a life of exceptional achievement.

NFSA Black Screen films are made available on a loan basis to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities for screenings free of charge.

WARNING this collection may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Visit screen or have a yarn with Indigenous Connections staff: Phone: 02 8202 0112 Email: