18 October 2022
The death of Jack Charles, Uncle Jack, evokes many, many thoughts and feelings.
I never met him, though I know people who did. I saw him around St Kilda and other parts of Melbourne, read his autobiography, saw his films. And maybe partly because of my line of work, I felt like I knew him a bit.
As his state funeral looms in sight, I reflect on the fact that he is probably the first career criminal and unashamed injecting drug user to be thus celebrated. (A quick reminder might be helpful: Uncle Jack’s 60th was his first birthday ending in a zero when he wasn’t incarcerated).
The Herald Sun continues its war on the Medically Supervised Injecting Room. The term 'junkie' lingers. And it’s obvious that many people in society have no real appreciation of the trauma that so often lays the fertile ground for a heroin addiction (often involving out-of-home care like Uncle Jack, and pre-teen injecting drug use to dull the pain of an almost intolerable life).
So, what does it take to for such a person (a thief and injecting drug user) to be thought of as a real person with hopes, dreams, friends, quirks, struggles, talents, potential? Do you have to be a famous thespian? Unfortunately, I suspect the answer is yes.
I imagine that Uncle Jack wouldn't want flowers at his funeral. I imagine he might want you to have a kind thought for the many people who suffered abuse like him but never made it. I imagine he might want you to send a care in the direction of the Medically Supervised Injecting Room, or anywhere else that people turn for support when much of society shuns them.
I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t disagree with this sentiment.
Vale Uncle Jack.
Chief Executive Officer