Indigenous Artist - Archie Roach

Dan Sultan

Birth name: Archibald William Roach
Born: 1956
Origin: Mooroopna, Victoria
Occupations: Musician-songwriter,
Instruments: Vocals, Guitar
Genres: Alternative rock, World Music
Years active: 1980 - Present
Labels: Mushroom Records, ABC Music
Associated acts: The Altogethers

In Archie's Own Words...

"I was born in Mooroopna, way there by the river bend... ". Mooroopna is named after an Aboriginal word referring to a bend in the Goulburn River, near Shepparton in central Victoria.
In 1956, Archie Roach's family, along with the rest of the area's indigenous population, were re-housed on Rumbalara mission. Roach and his family subsequently moved to Framlingham, where his mother was born.
While still a very young child, Roach and his sisters, along with many other young people of the 'stolen generation,' were forcibly removed from their family by Australian government agencies, and placed in an orphanage. After enduring two unpleasant placements in foster care Roach was eventually fostered by the Coxes, a family of Scottish immigrants in Melbourne.
The Coxes' eldest daughter, Mary, played keyboards and guitar in a local pentecostal church, and taught Roach the basics of both instruments. He was further inspired by his foster father's record collection, which included old Scottish ballads and songs by Billie Holiday, the Ink Spots, the Drifters and Nat King Cole.

As a young man, Roach received a letter from an older sister, describing to him the events of their childhood. Angry and hurt, he left his foster home carrying only a guitar. Penniless, he travelled to Sydney and Adelaide, and spent time living on the streets, trying to make sense of his upbringing and find his natural family.
He went through periods of alcoholism and despair, but also began to produce music. During this time Roach met his lifelong partner, and musical soulmate, Ruby Hunter.
They started a family, late in their marriage, their home became an open house for teenage Aborigines living on the streets.

In the late 1980s Hunter and Roach formed a band, The Altogethers, with several other indigenous Australians, and moved to Melbourne. There he was overheard by a bandmate of songwriter Paul Kelly, who persuaded Kelly to give Roach an opening slot for some of his concerts.

In 1990, with the encouragement of Kelly, Roach recorded his debut solo album, Charcoal Lane. This album included the song Took the Children Away, a moving indictment of the treatment of indigenous children of Roach's generation, and a song which 'struck a chord' not only among the wider Aboriginal community, but also nationally.
The song was awarded two ARIA Awards, as well as an international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time this had been awarded to a songwriter because of a song. The album it came from featured in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 Albums for 1992.

Roach has recorded three further albums, and toured around the globe, headlining and opening shows for Joan Armatrading, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and Patti Smith. He has worked on soundtracks for several films, including Rolf de Heer's The Tracker.

Roach currently lives on a homestead near Berri, South Australia with his children. His home has become something of a refuge for troubled Aboriginal youngsters, now dealing with some of the problems he himself faced.
His wife Ruby Hunter died on 17 February 2010 aged 55. On 14 October 2010 Roach suffered a stroke while working in the Kimberley region. He was reported to be in a stable condition.

Next Month's Indigenous Artist . . . Wire M C

Pigram Brothers

Pigram Brothers

Our featured Indigenous Artist this month is...
The Pigram Brothers, a 7 piece Indigenous Australian band from the pearling town of Broome, Western Australia formed in 1996.

Read the review here  

Archie Roach

Archie Roach

Archie Roach is a truly gifted and inspiring talent. Born at Framlingham Aboriginal mission, Warrnambool in south western Victoria, Archie was taken from his family at an early age as part of the notorious 'stolen generation'... .

Read more here