Charles Perkins

A distinguished alumnus of the University of Sydney, Charles Perkins worked across boundaries to create new opportunities, and reached beyond traditional limitations to find solutions.

He showed that new ways, new partnerships and new ideas could change the way Australians think and act. And he sought to lead new collaborations in situations where a single person or agency could not deliver the desired result.

In just the same way, the Charles Perkins Centre will look for solutions beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, to provide new hope for people suffering obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

An agent for change

Charles Perkins graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney in 1966; the first Aboriginal man to graduate from a university in Australia.

While at Sydney, he had already displayed the passion and drive that would mark his career when, in the summer of 1965, he organised a group of 30 students to travel to Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey, in what has become known as the Freedom Ride, to protest against discrimination and poor living conditions in these communities.

His later achievements cemented his reputation. He became Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Chairman of the Aboriginal Development Commission and Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.

He was an ATSIC Commissioner in both Alice Springs and Sydney. In 1987, he was awarded the Order of Australia, and in 1999, he was declared a National Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. The following year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney which he accepted on "behalf of all of my Indigenous brothers and sisters, particularly the stolen generation".