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'I knew you would get a packed house for your last show': Uncle Jack farewelled in moving State Funeral

Tamati Smith -

Uncle Jack Charles, revered by many as one of Australia's greatest storytellers, was laid to rest in a moving State Funeral in Naarm (Melbourne) on Tuesday.

The late Uncle Jack spent many years working with prisoners and, as such, his funeral was live streamed in prisons, remand centers and youth justice centres.

The State Funeral started outside with a traditional smoking ceremony and dancers from Koorie Youth Will Shake Spears, Djirri Djirri and Murrundaya dancers sending Uncle Jack off to the dreaming.

Mob travelled from all over the country, with Indigenous theatre and media personalities such as Luke Carroll and Shareena Clanton spotted in the crowd alongside members from Yirra Yaakin and Ilberijerri.

The smoking ceremony didn't end outside, with the dance groups going through the entire Arts Center Melbourne building and walking into the packed-out theatre and between the crowd to set the fire bucket on the centre stage next to Uncle Jack's coffin.

Although the State Premier Daniel Andrews was meant to be in attendance, the recent flooding emergency throughout regional Victoria had him called away to deal with the crisis.

Acting Treaty and First Peoples Minister Colin Brooks stood in his place.

"He told stories that were once hidden away," Mr Brooks said.

"Through tragedy he created art and through art he created a voice for change," he said.

Uncle Kutcha Edwards, a fellow Stolen Generations survivor and songwriter then went on to emotionally sing a revised version of Advance Australia Fair.

While pointing to Uncle Jack's coffin Uncle Kutcha said "we did the sound check this morning and he wasn't laying there" as he wiped the tears away from his eyes.

"I want to send a cheerio," Uncle Kutcha said to those watching from institutions.

"To all you mob to what we call are on holiday, he was an advocate for each and every one of you.

"We did our time as children in those institutions."

Towards the end of funeral Gary Foley took to the stage to pay final respects.

"Onya jack I knew you would get a packed house for your last show," he said.

The State Funeral ended with a procession from the front of Art Centre towards the city centre where the vehicle left the crowd which had gathered to send Uncle Jack off.


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