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HomeNewsFirst PeoplesRachel Perkins is continuing her father’s legacy of activism ahead of the referendum

Rachel Perkins is continuing her father’s legacy of activism ahead of the referendum

On Tuesday September 19, filmmaker and co-chair of Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Rachel Perkins, delivered the Dr Charles Perkins Memorial Oration, which is named after her father.

Speaking at the University of Sydney, the Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman said a lack of understanding was a “problem the Yes campaign has”.

“If I have learned one big, alarming, sometimes depressing thing from travelling the country in recent months, and from wading through the press … the most depressing thing of all about this referendum that you read on social media is that people don’t know what the Voice is, or why we want it,” she said.

“They have not read the words, the words that were very carefully chosen, after many years of deliberation amongst Indigenous leaders from all over Australia.”

Ms Perkins said she was continuing her father’s legacy of activism ahead of the referendum on October 14, which “presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to bind this nation together with its first people, its greatest ever handshake placed in the Australian constitution.”

In 1965, as a student at the University of Sydney, Charles Perkins organised a student bus tour around New South Wales. This was called the Freedom Ride, and it highlighted the state of race relations in Australia. It is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant civil rights events.  Charles Perkins was also the first Aboriginal man to graduate from the University of Sydney in 1966.

Throughout 2023, Rachel has been deeply immersed in vital efforts concerning The Voice to Parliament, passionately advocating for the impending referendum’s importance and enlightening individuals about the positive transformations it promises for First Nations. Her lifelong dedication revolves around enhancing Australians’ understanding of Indigenous history and culture.

Rachel’s career in film and media for over 30 years has led her to become an educator, leader, and mentor. She has been inspiring the next generations of First Nations storytellers. Most recently, she has taken this year off from her filmmaking to dedicate herself towards the Yes campaign, advocating and promoting the importance of The Voice to Parliament.

Rachel Perkins believes this year’s referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for recognition.

The Dr Charles Perkins AO Memorial Oration and Prize was established in 2001 to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions made by Charles and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to our community, country and society.

Celebrating Sydney University’s deep history and connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the Oration includes a recognition of academically gifted students through the Charles Perkins Memorial Prize.

Awarded to the top Indigenous students at the university based on the highest academic results in their field, each winner is awarded $4000.

  • Rachal Allan – Medicine and Health
  • Aneika Kapeen – Medicine and Health
  • Keona Wilson – Medicine and Health

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the Dr Charles Perkins Oration and Memorial Prize.

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