Charles Perkins Activist and Soccer Player

Charles Nelson Perkins, AO, (born c.1936/1937 in Alice Springs, Northern Territory — died October 19, 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales) was an Australian Aboriginal activist, soccer player and administrator. He was known as Kumantjayi Perkins in the period immediately following his death. Kumantjayi is a name used to refer to a deceased person in Arrernte culture.

Perkins was born to an Arrernte woman and a Kalkadoon man and had 11 brothers and sisters. Perkins was a cousin of artist and soccer player John Moriarty. He married Eileen Munchenberg on 23 September 1961 and had two daughters (Hetti and Rachel) and one son (Adam).
Perkins began playing in 1950 with Adelaide team Port Thistle. In 1951 he was selected for a South Australia under 18 representative team. He went on to play for a number of teams in Adelaide including International United (1954-55), Budapest (1956-57) and Fiorentina (1957). In 1957 he was invited to trial with English first division team Liverpool FC. Perkins ended up trialing and training with Liverpool’s city rival Everton FC. While at Everton Perkins had a physical confrontation with the Everton reserve grade manager after being called a “kangaroo bastard.” After this incident Perkins left Liverpool to move to Wigan where he worked as a coal miner at the Mosley Common Colliery alongside Great Britain rugby league player Terry O’Grady. Perkins played two seasons for leading English amateur team Bishop Auckland F.C. between 1957 and 1959. Perkins in mid-1959 decided to return to Australia after trialing with Manchester United.

On returning to Australia Perkins was appointed captain/coach of Adelaide Croatia. At Croatia he played alongside notable Aboriginal figures Gordon Briscoe and John Moriarty.

How he managed to get into University First, he had to get is matriculation, which he didn’t have to get to Sydney University. So he went to a college in Sydney called the Metropolitan Business College. Now out of forty five in a class, he and one other person were the only two to successfully get through.

His involvement in the Freedom Rides In 1965 he was one of the key members of the Freedom Ride – a bus tour through New South Wales by activists protesting discrimination against Aboriginal people in small town Australia. This action was in emulation of the US Civil Rights Freedom Ride campaign in 1961. The Australian Freedom Ride aimed to expose discrepancies in living, education and health conditions among the Aboriginal population. The tour targeted rural towns such as Walgett, Moree, and Kempsey. They acted to publicise acts of blatant discrimination. This was demonstrated through one of the Freedom Ride activities in Walgett. A local RSL club refused entry to Aborigines, including those who were ex-servicemen who participated in the two World Wars. The bus at one stage was run off the road.
On 20 February 1965, Perkins and his party tried to enter the swimming pool at Moree, where the local council had barred Aboriginal people from swimming for 40 years since it had been opened. In response to this action the riders faced physical opposition from several hundred local white Australians, including community leaders, and were pelted with eggs and tomatoes. These events were broadcast across Australia, and under pressure from public opinion, the council eventually reversed the ban on Aboriginal swimmers. The Freedom Ride then moved on, but on the way out they were followed by a line of cars, one of which collided with the rear of their bus forcing them to return to Moree where they found that the council had reneged on their previous decision. The Freedom Riders protested again forcing the council to again remove the ban.

His life and career after the Freedom Rides In 1961 when Perkins moved to Sydney to study at university he played with Pan-Hellenic (later known as Sydney Olympic FC) in the New South Wales State League where he became captain/coach. He later played for Bankstown and retired in 1965.
He later served as president of former National Soccer League team Canberra City. He was appointed Australian Soccer Federation (a forerunner of the Football Federation Australia) vice-president in 1987 and was the chairman of the Australian Indoor Soccer Federation (later known as the Australian Futsal Federation) for ten years until his death in Sydney in 2000.

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