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Even in his final moments, Uncle Jack Charles 'remained a resilient, charming' man

Jarred Cross -

A lifelong friend of Uncle Jack Charles who was by his side in his final hours says even in his final moments the resilience and charm he had been known for shone through.

Uncle Jack had always been the glue holding the family together, and waited to be surrounded by each of his loved ones before saying goodbye, according to close friend Rachael Maza.

After suffering a stroke on September 12 he was taken to Royal Melbourne hospital where, later, a smoking ceremony was held in an outside area with the help of staff and their Aboriginal support team.

Such was Ms Maza's relationship with the 79-year-old stage and screen legend, she was there by his side the next morning.

"He didn't muck around, he didn't drag it out," she said.

"He wasn't in pain but he made sure he hung around long enough for the family to get there.

"He spent his whole life getting his family together.

"He wasn't ready to leave until knew that everybody was there and then when he was ready that next morning he took his last breath."

While overwhelmed by the reaction following his passing, it came as little surprise for Ms Maza given the man she knew.

Ms Maza's father and Uncle Jack together founded Nindethana theatre company, laying the foundations for Indigenous theatre to become part of the mainstream and industry Ms Maza would later find herself thrive in.

Ms Maza has served as artistic director of ILBIJERRI theatre company since 2008 with a catalogue of acting and extended theatre work, some alongside Uncle Jack.

She said whether it was on the stage or passing the average person on the street, he touched the lives of everyone he met.

Treating each with the same humility and open ears, Ms Maza hopes her friend is remembered for the person he was - a charming, funny, remarkably talented and gracious man seldom beat down by the trauma and personal battles endured throughout his life.

She said Uncle Jack remained the most "gentleman of gentleman" - a fitting inspiration and role model for anyone.

On the stage he was a mentor for those behind the curtain.

Less of a teacher in a practical sense, he performed as an example for budding and established actors alike to take visible lessons from in honing their craft.

His ability to impart wisdom extended to the crowd, nowhere more obvious to Ms Maza than while directing his biographical show Jack Charles v The Crown.

Uncle Jack Charles died aged 79 on September 13, 2022.

Despite Uncle Jack being a constant figure in her life, it was during this time seeing him tell his life story she got to know him on another level.

She marvelled at his ability to demand the entire focus of those in attendance and present the impacts of the Stolen Generation to non-Indigenous people in a way rarely seen.

"People understood for the first time in a really deep way, what that lived experience was of being a stolen Gen person," Ms Maza said.

"They (non-Indigneous people) don't get it, I know that I get it.

"But when you come along and you meet Uncle Jack and you hear his story, they got it.

"They got it in such a deep, profound way."

Always giving his time, Ms Maza said to carve out the legacy and have the impact Uncle Jack did, particularly for those suffering from the similar battles he faced, his warmth and lack of judgement for others is half the battle.

"There's no doubt he will live on in the memories and hearts and minds of all Australians going forward," Ms Maza said

"He deserves that place front and centre in our hearts."


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