There are few Australian voices in the debate on social justice and Indigenous welfare that resonate as strongly as that of Archie Roach and his impact on this country’s musical landscape
is equally powerful.
And now in a fitting tribute, Archie Roach has been awarded AM in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to the performing arts as a singer, song-writer and guitarist, and to the community as a spokesman for social justice.
When Roach released his debut album Charcoal Lane 25 years ago, his song Took the Children Away shone a spotlight on the impact of the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families and brought it to the attention of the global community. At the time, the song won two ARIA Awards and an international Human Rights Achievement Award (making Roach the first person ever to receive this award for a song).
Since then, he has received countless awards, and released eight albums and a retrospective box set (of his first four albums). His work has been recognised locally and internationally, in mainstream and Indigenous circles. He has collaborated with the finest musicians in the country, including Paul Kelly, Troy Cassar-Daley, Christine Anu, Vika and Linda Bull, Shane Howard and Dan Sultan. He has toured with some of the world’s most iconic artists, including Leonard Cohen, Rodriguez, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Billy Bragg, Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading, Suzanne Vega and Patti Smith.
In recognition of the significance of his musical contribution to the social and cultural landscape of Australia, in 2013 Took the Children Away was added to the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, as part of the Sounds of Australia collection.
Three decades after the release of Charcoal Lane, his work continues to reflect the struggles and issues facing Indigenous Australians as well as exploring universal themes of love, friendship, family and community. His commitment to raising awareness and being a catalyst for change remains undiminished. Off stage, he has become a spokesperson for social justice, working in Indigenous communities around the country and mentoring many young and emerging Indigenous artists.
He is also a Patron of Parkville College, within the Parkville Juvenile Justice precinct.
Roach is currently working on a new album entitled Let Love Rule, with producer Craig Pilkington. The songs on the new record explore the many faces of love, calling for great care, more love and unity as we face the future. The album is due for release by Liberation Music later this year.
Liberation Music’s managing director Warren Costello says: “Archie Roach is a revered man and musician, and with Let Love Rule we have once again set out to help Archie create another landmark album in what has already been such an amazing career.
“Michael Gudinski and I have drawn incredible strength and inspiration from Archie and Archie’s partner and musical collaborator, the late Ruby Hunter over many, many years and we look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with Archie to launch this new album.”