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Dr Charles Perkins Oration

On 12 November we celebrated our Indigenous community and spoke about race relations in Australia.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Dr Charles Perkins Oration and Prize. We are proud to have partnered with the ABC as the Host Broadcaster to bring you this special public online event during NAIDOC Week.

Watch the event recording

The event was presented live from The Great Hall at the University of Sydney and you can watch the recording below.

Prize winners

Celebrating the University’s deep history and connection to First Nations Peoples, the Oration includes a recognition of academically gifted students through the Charles Perkins Memorial Prize.

Awarded to the top three Indigenous students at the University based on the highest academic results in their field, each winner is awarded $4000. Congratulations to this year’s recipients: a PhD candidate – Theatre and Performance Studies, Katerina Bampos, PhD candidate in History and Kaela Phillips, Master of Music Studies (Performance) student.

Each year, we invite members from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to share their stories about their experiences, research, projects and ideas.

This year Stan Grant and Isabella Higgins hosted the event.

Stan is a TV news and political journalist, TV presenter and author. He is is a proud Wiradjuri man and International Affairs Analyst at the ABC, occasional presenter on ABC TV, and Professor of Global Affairs at Griffith University in Queensland.

Isabella is ABC's National Indigenous Affairs Correspondent and is also the Winner of the Shortform Journalism category at the 2019 Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards. She grew up in Queensland, as part of a proud Torres Strait Islander and Kaurareg family.

The Oration was presented by Pat Turner. Pat is a Gurdanji and Arrernte woman and Chief Executive Officer of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Coalition of Peaks Convenor and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. 

The event included:

  • A video music performance by Paul Kelly, an Australian rock music legend. Paul will be performing  ‘A Bastard Like Me’ the tribute to the late Charles Perkins which featured on his 2018 album Nature. Paul shares a close relationship with the Perkins family and hails Charlie Perkins as one of his heroes stating ‘he was very practical in his activism, hands-on, day-by-day, trying to make things better for his people.’ A Bastard Like Me’ is also the title of Charles Perkins’ autobiography. 
  • A video from the Perkins family about how their father inspired the Oration and why race relations have always been a focus. 
  • Words from students about what the Prize means to them.
  • Words from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence AC. The Vice-Chancellor awarded three prizes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their final year of a bachelor or honours degree who demonstrated outstanding competency during their studies. 
  • A music performance by the Barayagal Choir.
  • A video with words from past Orators.
  • Oration/keynote speech by Pat Turner. 

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.  

Named in honour of Australia's first Aboriginal graduate, 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.

20 years on, the theme of race relations is still current. This event helps to build an understanding of race relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and empower individuals and the wider community to contribute to this important conversation. 

Who is Charlie Perkins?

“I am hard-nosed about some things and you have to be in Aboriginal affairs."

The legacy of Charles Perkins

Rachel Perkins explains the significance of the Charles Perkins Oration.

Speaking out

Past Orators reflect on 20 years of the Charles Perkins Oration.

Other ways to participate in NAIDOC Week

Wednesday 11 November
11.30 – 12.30pm

Join this online event to celebrate the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made – and continue to make - to our University, our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation.

Hear from panel members about how to create a more inclusive organisational culture.

Register now.

Did you know that many places on campus were designed to reflect our connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Country?

The planning, design and construction of the Chau Chak Wing Museum has happened in consultation with local Aboriginal groups to build architectural and social spaces that create a sense of Gadigal belonging. It is the first museum built on Gadigal land with Gadigal community input.

Watch the video of Matt Poll, Assistant Curator, Indigenous Heritage talk through the different Indigenous design elements of the new Chau Chak Wing Museum. Watch video now.

Find out more about the Walanga Wingara Mura Design Principles.

Every year, the University invites 350 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to experience university. We followed the journey of three students from high school to University. Watch these short documentary style videos to see their story.

Caitlyn: Caitlyn grows in confidence through her final years of high school, and learns more about not just who she is and where she’s from, but also where she wants her future self to be. Watch her journey.

Jack: Raised in Singleton, Jack dreams of becoming a social worker, and uses his experiences of his own mental health struggles as a way to help others. Watch his journey.

Hamani: With dreams of pursuing music in his future, Hamani believes his purpose in life is to entertain through his vocal talent and to inspire others like him to be their authentic selves. Watch his journey.

So many solutions to the problems we face today can be found in the wisdom of Indigenous knowledge. For NAIDOC Week, reflect upon and share how Indigenous knowledge can help us solve ongoing collective challenges, such as sustainable land management and food security.

  • Listen to the 'Perennial Soil' podcast by "I don't want to go to another planet." Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe. Listen now.
  • Visit the ‘Dhuwarr: bread’ installation in the foyer of our Administration Building (F23) to learn more about the research colleagues are doing at Narrabri about Gomeroi grains, grasses and placemaking. Learn more.

Learn more about our Indigenous research.

Check out the research, resources and workshops available from the University’s National Centre for Cultural Competence to deepen your knowledge, experiences and understanding of Aboriginal Sydney. Register to complete their online modules and face-to-face workshops. 

Student stories