Ronnie Gorrie, a Gnai/Kaanai woman from Victoria and former Queensland State Police officer, has blamed The New York Times for the obituary of Uncle Jack Charles.
Gory, who knew the prominent actor and activist Uncle Jack personally, called the obituary insensitive and culturally inappropriate.
Note: This article uses the name and image of Uncle Jack Charles with his family’s permission.
“Uncle Jack Charles was a respected elder in our community,” Gory said.
“His death rocked Australia, and of course Victoria, so we are grateful that his untimely death has reached the shores of New York.
“I found the initial stories and headlines to be very brutal and infuriating.”
Uncle Jack, a man from Boon Woolun, Ja Jah Woolun, Woi Woolun, Yorta Yorta passed away peacefully on September 13 at the age of 79 after a stroke.
The first paragraph of the New York Times article read:
MELBOURNE, Australia — Jack Charles, one of Australia’s leading Indigenous actors, has been called the ‘grandfather of Aboriginal theater’ but had a heroin addiction, robbery tendencies, and was in and out of prison throughout his life. died in Melbourne on September 13th. He was 79 years old.
Updated as follows:
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Jack Charles, one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal actor and activists, was dubbed the “grandfather of Aboriginal theater” and spent years in prison for a robbery deemed reparative. died in Melbourne on September 13th. he was 79 years old.
“Culturally, it’s very disrespectful to speak ill of our dead,” Ms. Gorrie said.
“So it’s really inspiring for us mobs to see Blackfellows written about him. And portraying him because of his past is very distasteful.
“My heart goes out to the families who may have been traumatized by what they read. It’s very upsetting.”
Gory said he received backlash on Twitter before the article was corrected.
The New York Times also used the term “so-called” when referring to the Stolen Generations. This phrase has since been removed.
“First, if you’re going to write about Aborigines who are survivors of a stolen generation, know the history,” Ms. Gorrie said.
“Don’t call it ‘so-called’ as if to imply that it never happened.
“The Victorian government is now compensating survivors and victims of the stolen generation. My grandmother was stolen when she was eight years old.
“My father took it from her the moment she gave birth to him, so I find it very offensive and very upsetting.
The New York Times Australian bureau chief Damian Cave tweeted Thursday about the edits and deletion of the original tweet.
@nytimesarts “Jack Charles was one of Australia’s leading Indigenous actors, but his heroin addiction and propensity for robbery kept him in and out of prison throughout his life.”
ABC reached out to The New York Times for further comment, but was told it had nothing to add at this time.
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Ms Gorrie spent 10 years as a Queensland Police Officer from 2002 to 2012 and wrote about her experiences with Black and Blue.
She said police racial profiling of indigenous peoples was widespread.
“White Australia has the assumption that all black men are violent and criminal, even if they are not.
“I raised an amazing Aboriginal man. My father was an incredible Aboriginal man, and Uncle Jack was an incredible Aboriginal man.
“From my time in the police, I know how cops racially profile.
“If you’re an Aboriginal, you’ll be intercepted, detained, and if you’re considered smart, you’ll be searched.
“They’ll make it difficult, find accusations, and load them up on you.”
Jeffery Amatto is a proud Wiradjuri man from Wellington, New South Wales and founder of More Cultural Rehabs Less Jails.
He never met Uncle Jack, but had corresponded with him on LinkedIn.
“He was a very strong advocate for our people and how broken the system really is,” Amat said.
“He’s been a huge inspiration and definitely led the way for us younger generations to step up and start speaking our minds.”
Amat, who has spent time in the criminal justice system, said police detained Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders too early.
“If you need trauma, addiction, alcoholism or mental health help, you may have to wait up to eight to nine weeks to get it, which does not guarantee a culture-based rehab bed. No — it’s where the magic happened for me,” he said.
Amat consults in communities in need of treatment centres, helps develop programs for youth and works with people released from detention.
Amat said prison is not the solution.
“We can’t get well in prison cells. Don’t say prisons rehabilitate our people because they don’t,” he said.
“If you want to close the gap, you have to bring us around the table and start incorporating our input into big decisions.”