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Portrait image of Archie Roach, Victoria, 2020 Australian of the Year

Musician and storyteller
Victoria, 2020 Australian of the Year

Archie Roach AM is a much-loved singer, songwriter and musician. He sees music as a medium for exploring issues that affect First Nations people in modern-day Australia.

Today, he runs the Archie Roach Foundation, providing opportunities for young people through art and culture. Through his music, he spreads a powerful message of love, reconciliation and healing.

Book and necklace

This book presents the lyrics of Archie’s acclaimed song, ‘Took the children away’, with illustrations by his late wife, Ruby Hunter. It was their last collaboration. The necklace is one Archie wears often — a connection to his Gunditjmara and Bundjalung cultures.

A red, yellow and black necklace with beads, in front of a book with a red cover. The book has an illustration of three black cars with adults in the front seat, children in the back.
Took the Children Away by Archie Roach and necklace

Music is medicine

Every time I sing ‘Took the children away’, I let go of a little piece of grief, the load gets lighter. Music is the medicine. You start to realise that this song is not so much about what’s been lost as what’s been found, what you’ve discovered, links to people, places and culture.

Healing process

I’m willing to tell my story as a process of healing, releasing the trauma from the past. You need to talk about Australian history, and people need to own it. Not pointing the finger or laying guilt. But we need to accept this is part and parcel of our history. We can’t cherrypick our history.

We all shine

It’s amazing to realise you have come through hard times and adversity and come good. But if it wasn’t for Ruby, I probably wouldn’t have made music or albums. It was Ruby who encouraged me to share my story and take opportunities. She used to say, ‘When one of us shines, we all shine’.

This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.

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