"From the time [Charles Perkins] was introduced to it, football became an integral part of his life," said Steve Doszpot, at the Indigenous icon's state funeral in Sydney.
The scale of Perkins' achievements in Indigenous affairs has meant that his football career is seldom mentioned, seen as a hobby or something he did in his youth. Yet football was where Perkins met his wife, Eileen, it took him to Merseyside and a trial with Everton Football Club, helped spark his political imagination and stayed with him until his death.
Perkins was a pioneering figure in the recognition of Australia's Indigenous people. In the 1960s, he led the freedom rides which brought discrimination against the Indigenous into Australian politics. He was the first male Aboriginal graduate of the University of Sydney and became chair of the Aboriginal Development Commission and head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs at federal level.
Born in 1936 near Alice Springs, his mother was of the Arunta people, and his father (whom he only saw once) was of the Kalkadoon people from Mount Isa. Perkins was taken to Adelaide as a 10-year-old along with several other children by a church pastor. Among the Indigenous children in the school at Marryatville was John Moriarty, another who made his way through football to an important career in Australian life.
Moriarty, who regarded Perkins as "like a brother", remembers him as a strong tackler who was "quite aggressive when he needed to be" and "a good talker" on and off the field. He led South Australian second division side, Croatia, to promotion to the first division in 1959 and a victory in the Advertiser Cup in 1960.
In Sydney, Perkins was a notoriously rough-and-ready competitor at Pan-Hellenic and Bankstown, and on several occasions was sent off and brought before the judiciary. He finished his career in 1965 but remained involved in the game off the field.
When the National Soccer League started, Perkins was president of Canberra City and became a member of the Australian Soccer Federation and its vice-president in 1987. He also helped promote the indoor game in Canberra along with his long-time friend, Johnny Warren, and was president of the Australian Indoor Soccer Federation for a decade.
Perkins' legacy is yet to be fully actualised. With Moriarty and others pushing for more inclusion and participation for Indigenous players, it is only a matter of time.
This design pays tribute to an Indigenous activist, academic and footballer of distinction.
Charles Perkins Activist Academic Footballer T-shirt
- Unisex, regular fit
- Crew neck
- Mid-weight, 180 GSM
- 100% combed cotton
- Neck ribbing, side seamed, shoulder to shoulder tape, double needle hems, preshrunk to minimise shrinkage
Size S M L XL 2XL 3XL W 47 52 56.5 61 64 68 L 71 75 78.5 82 83.5 85
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