NAIDOC Week 2021: How Charles Perkins harnessed power of football to make Australian history

“Perkins was a champion – a real Ben Hur, smashing his way through Australia’s race politics, and football was his chariot” – Johnny Warren.

Not only was Charles Perkins a fierce advocate and visionary for the rights of Indigenous Australians, he was also an immense pioneer for Australian football.

As Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week 2021, it marks a fitting time to delve into the story of a man whose renowned journey was intertwined with a love for the game of football.

He was a figure who left his mark playing the world game on Australian shores and beyond, during some incredibly valuable time spent overseas.

Charles Perkins

Dr Charles Nelson Perrurle Perkins AO was born near Alice Springs in 1936. He was raised by his mother, of the Arrernte people, while he only once met his father, of the Kalkadoon people, before being taken to Adelaide at the age of ten – as one of the Stolen Generation.

It was at school in Marryatville, South Australia, that Charles first met John Moriarty; the pair would grow up together and continue to cross paths through football for the rest of Perkins’ life.

Turning from a boy to a man in unfamiliar surroundings was challenging for Charles and John. But in 1951, a chance event sparked their love for a game that made truly them feel at home.

One day the South Australian U18 side were training near their school, when a group from St Francis House, including Perkins and Moriarty, took them on in a match that would see the State outfit comprehensively defeated.

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