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Uncle Jack Charles helped Australia understand pain of Stolen Generations survivors, Burney says

Tom Zaunmayr -

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney has lauded late Elder Uncle Jack Charles' storytelling which she said helped the nation understand the pain of Stolen Generations survivors.

Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta senior Elder Uncle Jack died peacefully in a Melbourne hospital Tuesday morning surrounded by friends and family following a stroke, aged 79.

Ms Burney said Uncle Jack was widely-known as the grandfather of Indigenous theatre for his role in founding Nindethana, Australia's first Indigenous theatre group, in 1971.

"He was a ground-breaking storyteller and activist who brought people in with his warmth and grace, never shying away from his past and who he was," she said.

"Uncle Jack offered a window for many Australians to see the enduring pain of survivors of the Stolen Generations and inspired people with his strength of character and resilience.

"Uncle Jack was recognised as the Male Elder of the Year at this year's NAIDOC awards, where he stole the show with his deeply personal story that has touched so many Australians.

"We have lost a legend of Australian theatre, film and creative arts."

Ms Burney also touched on Uncle Jack's role as the first Elder to speak his truth to Victoria's Yoorrook Justice Commission.

In his April address to the truth-telling body, Uncle Jack revealed his haunting "stolen" history.

Uncle Jack revealed he had been abused by staff and other boys during his 12-year stay at Box Hill Boys' Home, and had to discover for himself his Aboriginality.

It wasn't until he was 17 when Uncle Jack found out his mother was still alive, only for his foster mum to call the police and have him taken to a home for juvenile offenders.

He did reconnect with his mother one year later, but only discovered the identity of his father last year, who had already died.


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