Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Roach, Uncle Archibald William (Archie), AM

12:50 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to add my voice to these condolences for the loss of Uncle Archie, Gunditjmara, Djab Wurrung, Keerray Woorroong and Bundjalung man. I want to give my thanks, Uncle Archie, for your life, your inspiration, your work for First Nations justice, your work as a storyteller and a truth teller, and your work sharing those stories and those truths with all of Australia. So many of us were touched by those stories and those truths. I want to send my condolences to Uncle Archie's family, to his friends and to everybody who has been touched by his life and his work.

His stories and his truths resonated with so many of us. For me as a Melbourne person, from Archie Roach's debut album, Charcoal Lane, in 1990 his music was sort of a backdrop to our lives. It was part of the soundtrack of people and communities working for First Nations justice. I was actually quite a latecomer in listening to and knowing his music and getting to know what he was sharing with us, but the moment I will never forget was at Federation Square on 13 February 2008, when the apology for the stolen generations occurred here in Canberra. I was in Federation Square and I remember it being a hot afternoon. I remember listening to Uncle Archie singing 'Took the Children Away'. It was just so moving, and a huge crowd of people in Federation Square were just touched to the heart about the truths that he was singing about. He dedicated his performance at Federation Square to the mother he was separated from and to his own children. He said, 'This brings a new start in life for us, the way it should have been'—this apology to the stolen generations.

I followed his career and his music more closely from then on. It was actually a distant friend, however, who gave me a copy of his autobiography; I think it was soon after it was published in 2019; it was probably early to mid-2020. She sent it to me and said, 'I just think you'd enjoy this.' This was soon after the loss of my wife, Penny, and I did. It just moved me so much to read his stories of resilience—everything he had been through and yet the hope and the goodness that he was bringing to the world. The quote that Senator Pocock just shared with us was, 'You can reach the darkest point in your life and come back, and come good.' That is what I think so many people got from his music and from his autobiography. Certainly for me it was a sense that you can get through these darkest times and continue on and be able to continue to work with honesty, to share that resilience and to work for justice together.

It was soon after getting a copy of that—I think it was in April last year—that, for the last time, I heard Uncle Archie perform, at the Werribee cultural centre. He was sharing his music with us, and what really came home to me then was just how his work brought people together. In fact, there's a microcosm. My whole family was there. Everybody had wanted to join together and go to this performance in Werribee, so my then 89-year-old mother and, I think, all of my siblings came together at that concert. Again, everybody was just so moved.

Obviously. the legacy of Archie Roach's life is for us to continue doing the work that he was doing: to continue sharing those stories, to continue sharing those truths and to continue working for justice; to acknowledge the pain, the hurt, the suffering, the genocide that has been going on for our First Nations peoples for over 200 years; and to commit ourselves to ending those awful practices, to stop taking the children away and to be working until our First Nations peoples have all of the rights, there is justice and we have treaties with our First Nations peoples—to continue that work that his songs and his life were such a powerful part of.

Thank you, Uncle Archie, may you rest in peace and in power.


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