House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Constituency Statements

Jackman, Charlie

10:03 am

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the upsides of the last year and a half with COVID has been the ability to spend some time at home with the family and reconnecting with the community by walking the streets—in my case the streets of Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds and Travancore—and down by the Maribyrnong River and the Moonee Ponds Creek. And now that it's again time—Christmas—to reach out to the locals, to wish them a safe and happy festive season, I want to send them something truly unique and local. This is how I came to meet 14-year-old artist Charlie Jackman.

You see, Charlie's not just your average high school student. For starters, he is a killer artist. He is also a brother, a son and a friend. And Charlie is 'proudly autistic', to quote his own words. By day, Charlie is a student at Overnewton college in Keilor, a school that has championed Charlie's abilities as a student, as an artist and as a person. And out of school hours, Charlie runs his own online art business. It's called Charlie By Art. He has had art commissioned by the Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews. He has an instinctual ability to capture the world around him in his drawings. For me, and for the entire Maribyrnong electorate, Charlie has drawn a spectacular vista of the area, across the famous showgrounds, the river and the Melbourne city skyline—a brilliant and detailed perspective of Melbourne that not everyone gets to see. I'm very proud to share his remarkable work with my constituents.

Charlie lives with his mum, Sue, his dad, Scott, and his brother, Nate. Sue says Charlie's early efforts at art didn't give too much away about his talent. The very young Charlie hated both paint and painting. It wasn't until he was nine that his artistic virtuosity came to light as a drawing artist. Through his art, we see the world through Charlie's eyes, and he truly looks at the world through a unique but brilliant lens. Charlie is also very disarming. When I met him last month, he cut to the chase and asked me how I had coped with the 2019 election. It may have been direct, but it was a question lathered in kindness, care and interest.

I think it's fantastic to see a young autistic man making his mark, defining the world on his terms, defining his independence and his identity. As I said to Charlie, it's not just about the destination, it's about the journey. I hope that many more Australians get to see this young man's amazing craft and his amazing work, and perhaps we might redefine our sense of what it is to have autism and redefine our views of how we see people with autism.