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Indigenous Australian Singer/Songwriter Archie Roach Dead at 66
Archie Roach (Image: Lani Louise)

Indigenous Australian Singer/Songwriter Archie Roach Dead at 66

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WARRNAMBOOL, AUSTRALIA (CelebrityAccess) – Indigenous Australian singer/songwriter, guitarist, and humanitarian, Archie Roach died Saturday (July 30) at the age of 66. He was most well-known for his song, “Took The Children Away,” about the stolen generations in Australia.

Roach, born in Mooroopna, was taken from his parents, Nellie Austin and Archie Roach, Sr. at the age of “three or four”, alongside his two sisters and was raised in Melbourne by a white family (Dulcie and Alex Cox) who were transplants from Scotland. They were told that his parents had died in a house fire, according to his obituary. He then became a child of the stolen generations.

Roach grew up listening to his adopted father’s music and decided to take up guitar. The Guardian reports that at the age of 15, he received a letter from a sister he had never heard from and learned that he had seven siblings total and that his real mother had just passed away. He left home a few months later to find his siblings and took his guitar with him.

According to his memoir, he spent years roaming the streets, suffered from alcoholism and epilepsy, spent time in jail, and attempted suicide. At the age of 17, he met another Indigenous Australian teen who was also a child of the stolen generations, Ruby Hunter and married her. They had two children and she “turned his life around.”

Roach penned the song, “Took the Children Away,” and sang it on community radio, in pubs, and on TV, grabbing the attention of singer/songwriter, Paul Kelly. Kelly asked Roach to open up for him at the Melbourne Concert Hall, where the song was well-received and he received a recording contract.

His album, Charcoal Lane was a success and was nominated for four Aria Awards in 1991, winning two of them. “Took the Children Away” shone a light on a part of Australia’s history that many didn’t know about. “That song is a summary of a pretty awful part of our history. It’s become a sort of anthem for the stolen generations,” said Mick Dodson, the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait justice commissioner who wrote the Bringing them Home report of 1997.

After a career in music alongside his wife Ruby, they also taught music in remote Indigenous communities and offered an open house to homeless and disadvantaged youths. After the death of his wife in 2010, Roach was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed.

In the years after, he released Into the Bloodstream (2012), Let Love Rule (2016), and Tell Me Why (2019). Tell Me Why became a top 10 bestseller in Australia.

In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his “significant service to the performing arts as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and to the community as a spokesman for social justice”.

In October 2020, Roach launched the Archie Roach Stolen Generation Educational Resources: a free package of educational support materials, developed by First Nations curriculum writers, to teach young Australians about Indigenous Australia, cultural identity, and the stolen generations.

Roach was inducted into the Aria hall of fame in November 2020. He is survived by two sons and three foster children.

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