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Jack Charles


Jack Charles is an actor, musician, potter, Koori elder and national treasure.

After Bastardy, a biographical documentary about Jack, was released in 2008, he rediscovered family members, and is now a respected elder of the Boon Wurrung clan and one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous stage and film actors.

As a member of the Archie Roach Foundation’s Council of Elders, Jack has taken his place as a Kadaitcha man — a traditional lawman — and works to help Indigenous prisoners see a better life beyond jail. 

Jack was in and out of Pentridge, and other jails, most of his life. He spent his 20th, 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays in jail. Under the Australian government’s forced assimilation program, he was taken from his Indigenous mother as a baby.

Along with Bob Maza, Jack was a co-founder of Australia’s first Indigenous theatre company, Nindethana, in 1972. He became a well-known performer, and, in those days, it was not uncommon for Jack to take a bow in some of the nation’s most prestigious theatres and then leave through the stage door looking for a bridge to sleep under.

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.