NSWALC Mourns the Passing of Barry "Uncle Charlie" French

Four years ago, Barry French won the Muswellbrook Shire Citizen of the Year award. As cameras flashed to capture his broad and beaming smile, most wondered why it had taken so long for him to be officially recognised.

Such was his ongoing and sustained contribution to the local community.

Everyone knew the man they called Uncle Charlie. Selfless. Tireless. The backbone of the region. He is widely regarded as the most significant figure in the process of reconciliation in the Muswellbrook community.

"Uncle Charlie was not only a passionate Land Rights leader. He was a greatly respected leader within the network and the wider community," NSWALC Deputy Chairperson and Northern Region Councillor Charles Lynch said.

"For more than five decades he was an active advocate for the rights of Aboriginal people to a better education, housing and health. And he was passionate about it right until the very end."

Sadly, Uncle Charlie lost his battle with cancer last Thursday.

His passing has triggered an outpouring of memories and tributes to honour one of the most revered and dedicated contributors to the Muswellbrook community.

A mate to all, he became a mentor for children and worked heavily with local schools. He took joy in creating opportunities and better lives for young people. He believed in the good in all and poured time into providing advocacy and support for young inmates in the juvenile justice system.

He would often comment on his passion for bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths. The way Uncle Charlie saw it, real progress started with empowering and educating generation next. And he set about achieving it.

He was a foundation member of the Wanaruah Local Aboriginal Land Council and served as its Chairperson.

Uncle Charlie had a seat at many tables. He chaired the Hunter Valley Aboriginal Corporation, served as a Juvenile Justice Panel member, state government boards and committees and gave more than 20 years of service to the NSW State Heritage and Culture Committee.

He was a people person and in his element surrounded by others.

"We have lost not just a true leader and fighter for the rights of our people but also a gentleman, a family man and a much-loved community member," Cr Lynch said.

"Uncle Charlie didn't have to say much to be heard and that's the true mark of the respect that was held for him. I will miss him greatly and know that because of him, the pillars we stand on have become stronger."

NSWALC offers its condolences and heartfelt wishes to Uncle Charlie's wife and extended family.

Barry French will be laid to rest at a funeral service at St Alban's Anglican Church at Muswellbrook on Thursday, October 24 at 11am.