Charles Perkins Oration

16 November 2020
Holding a mirror to our nation
2020 has highlighted the need for a renewed focus on racial equality. Marking its 20th anniversary, the Charles Perkins Oration continues to emphasise the need to continue the fight for equality of First Nations people as Charles Perkins himself had envisioned.

With this year’s NAIDOC Week theme ,“Always Was, Always Will be”, the Oration focused on issues around the need for reforms in order to ensure a First Nations Voice is heard on the cultural, political and policy stage.

Indigenous leader Pat Turner was the orator for this year’s Charles Perkins Oration. Niece of the legendary Aboriginal leader, Ms Turner recalled how much of an inspiration Charles Perkins was to her as a young girl, recounting his battles for civil rights.

She stressed the need to address the issues at hand and be a part of the story for change, just as her uncle did during the Freedom Ride, now recognised as one of Australia's most significant civil rights events.

Ms Turner held a mirror to our nation; highlighting the fact that current reforms are being made without enough advice or input from First Nations people.

“A First Nations Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament to monitor and advise on making laws with respect to our people is still missing from the political and policy landscape,” she said.

“So too is national truth-telling and treaties.”

Ms Turner’s Oration encouraged an understanding of race relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and empowered individuals and the wider community to contribute to this important conversation. 

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. This year’s recipients are a PhD candidate – Theatre and Performance Studies, Katerina Bampos, PhD candidate in History and Kaela Phillips, Masters of Music Studies (Performance) student.

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.

The Charles Perkins Memorial Prize is made possible through the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust and our Indigenous Strategy and Services portfolio.

The University of Sydney is proud to acknowledge the ABC as the Host Broadcaster for the 20th anniversary of the Dr Charles Perkins Oration event to help share this important conversation with Australians.

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