Backlash over Aussie star’s ‘vile’ obituary

Furious fans of Charles’ work have dubbed the New York Times “shameful” for its approach to the obit, which also described Charles as a member of the “so-called Stolen Generation”. The piece was penned by a Melbourne-based writer for the Times’ Australian outpost. Charles died of a stroke on September 13 aged 79, with tributes soon flowing for the respected Indigenous Elder and Melbourne icon known to many as “Uncle Jack”.He had lived an extraordinary and often traumatic life, and had indeed spent many decades in and out of prison while battling a heroin addiction. He’d said in the past those struggles were a reaction to the traumas suffered in his youth, including being taken from his mother as an infant and then experiencing appalling physical and sexual abuse while he grew up in an orphanage. But he entered a new phase of his life and career after getting clean in 2008. At the same time a documentary about him, Bastardy, was released to much critical acclaim. Since then, Charles was more prolific than ever, winning new fans as an actor and public speaker and in 2016 being named Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.“Jack Charles was one of Australia’s leading Indigenous actors, but his heroin addiction and penchant for burglary landed him in and out of jail throughout his life,” was how the New York Times Arts account announced his death – one week on – in a tweet posted yesterday, which was met with an immediate backlash.“No, we are not doing this. He was a leading actor and activist. This isn’t presenting a complex person, it’s straight up racial profiling,” writer Amy Gray tweeted in response.“Wow. This is … one of the worst ways I’ve seen his story told. Shame on you, @nytimesarts. Absolute shame on you,” tweeted another person.“This has got to be one of the most despicable headlines I’ve seen in a long time,” said another.“Oh my. That is so very disrespectful. Disgraceful, in fact,” wrote another person, while yet another called the obit “just vile.” And so the negative comments continued, with many demanding the New York Times remove the tweet and apologise:For a better tribute to Jack Charles’ incredible life and legacy, watch fellow Indigenous actor Luke Carroll’s emotional appearance on The Project, the same day news of Charles’ death broke.“He was short in stature, but he was massive in presence. He’d lived a full life, a colourful life, but a national treasure,” Carroll said.“Uncle Jack was more than an Elder, he made you feel like family. He was mischievous, he was funny, and he was family.”He called Charles “one of the best stage and screen performers in this country – a born performer”. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was also among those paying tribute to Charles, tweeting that he had “lived a hard life, and he leaves a joyous legacy”. “He endured cruelty, he knew pain. He survived every turn of the vicious cycle, holding on to his humanity. Jack Charles uplifted our nation with his heart, his genius, his creativity and passion,” Mr Albanese said.

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