Remembering Archie Roach, the legendary First Nations artist and activist

Revisiting the legacy of Archie Roach, the legendary Indigenous Australian artist, activist, storyteller and member of the Stolen Generation.

Australia is mourning the loss of Indigenous singer-songwriter and activist, Uncle Archie Roach who died on Saturday (30 July), at the age of 66, due to a long-term illness. He was surrounded by loved ones at Warrnambool Base Hospital in Victoria at the time of his passing.

His family has released the following statement: “We are heartbroken to announce the passing of Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung Senior Elder, songman and storyteller Archie Roach.”

archie roach ABC
Credit: ABC News

Born at Mooroopna in Victoria, Archie Roach first rose to fame in 1990, following the release of his legendary and impactful song, Took the Children Away. From then onwards, he went on to become one of the most visible members of the Stolen Generation. In his powerful and widely-celebrated 2019 memoir, Tell Me Why, he chronicles his journey through love, family, community, heartbreak, survival, and the healing effect of music.

Throughout his impactful career, Uncle Archie has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Deadly Award in 2013, for a Lifetime Contribution to Healing the Stolen Generations. In 2020, he was also added to the ARIA Hall of Fame. During his years performing, he has opened shows for the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman.

Archie Roach memorial
Credit: Barrie Pullen / ABC News

Over the weekend, the news of Archie’s tragic passing was met with an outpouring of tributes in honour of his legacy. Among them was a message from Australian PM, Anthony Albanese: “Tonight we mourn the passing of Archie Roach. Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller.”

The unforgettable legacy of Archie Roach will continue to live on. His impactful work in storytelling, music and Aboriginal activism will be carried on by the next generation, who remain inspired by his mission, and his message of healing and reconciliation.