Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Uncle Jack Charles asked to prove Aboriginality to receive Stolen Generations reparations

Uncle Jack Charles says he doesn't understand how the committee cannot differentiate between him and someone falsely claiming to be Indigenous

Award-winning Indigenous actor, musician and activist Uncle Jack Charles has accused the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee of racism after being asked to prove his Aboriginality.

Uncle Jack says he was shocked to receive a recent phone call from a committee staff member demanding proof of his Aboriginality in order to receive an $80,000 second instalment under the Stolen Generations Reparation scheme.

The Wiradjuri, Boon Warrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man said he and others have already been paid the first $20,000 instalment without any issue.

He told ABC Radio Melbourne's Drive program the worker told him there were too many people falsely claiming to be Indigenous.

"But the point of fact here is that it's me they're talking to — a well-known, Aboriginal person," he said.

"It strikes me that they can't differentiate between people [who] are taking advantage of the system and the likes of myself."

Uncle Jack was the first Indigenous recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award from Victoria's Green Room Awards, received an Australian Council of the Arts Red Ochre Award for most-outstanding Indigenous artist and was the first elder to speak at Victoria's Yoorrook Justice Commission.

Uncle Jack Charles says he felt distressed when his Aboriginality was questioned in relation to a Stolen Generations reparation scheme. (ABC: Lisa Tomasetti)

The 2015 Victorian Senior of the Year was recently the focus of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are on SBS, which used his DNA to identify his father.

"I'm noted as a man who can sit on a panel to chose Victorian NAIDOC award winners and there you see me on the promos for the national NAIDOC award winners amongst Uncle Archie Roach and others."

The Victorian Government's Stolen Generations Reparations Package website does not make any mention of having to prove Aboriginality to receive compensation under a scheme it said was designed to address the trauma and suffering caused by the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities.

It also states applicants do not have to provide proof of their removal, and that searches of government and other records can be done on their behalf, if given permission.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Community Safety said: "We fully understand that the process of seeking reparations and redress may be confronting and re-traumatising for members of the Stolen Generation. That's why we worked closely with community to design Victoria's program to be culturally sensitive and for the onus to be placed on government rather than applicants to do the work in ascertaining if someone is a member of the Stolen Generation."

Uncle Jack told ABC Radio Melbourne the questioning of his identity was distressing.

"I think it's peculiarly and particularly racist against the First Nations people," he said.

He said the incident left him questioning why someone would falsely pass themselves off as Indigenous.

"It's too difficult to be an Aboriginal. Have a look at what I'm struggling through right now, hitting 79 in September and I'm still being bedevilled and perplexed," Uncle Jack said.

It's not the first time the renowned artist has had his Aboriginality questioned.

In 2012, the federal government's arts funding body, the Australia Council, demanded he prove his eligibility to be considered for a grant to write a book.

Related Stories
NAIDOC Awards: Ash Barty named Person of the Year for contribution to youth sport and education
Tennis star Ash Barty is named Person of the Year at the NAIDOC Awards. The awards recognise the contributions that…
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
The Loop: Cervical screening changes explained, Airbnb extends party ban, YouTuber Technoblade's family posts farewell video
Finish your working week in The Loop.
Aboriginal artefacts to return home to South Australia's Kaurna people after 150 years in Beechworth museum
After being kept in a regional Victorian museum for about 150 years, a collection of Aboriginal artefacts is being returned…
Yoorrook Justice Commission releases interim report detailing Aboriginal elders' experiences of racism
Aboriginal elders have recounted their experiences of discrimination, dispossession and child removal for a landmark Victorian inquiry.
Ash Barty among NAIDOC award winners
Retired tennis player Ash Barty was among the winners at this year’s NAIDOC Awards, being named the person of the…
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
NT treaties must achieve ‘highest levels of self-determination’ for First Nations, commissioner says
Acting treaty commissioner Tony McAvoy recommends forum for Indigenous people to endorse a state-wide treaty model