Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Roach, Uncle Archibald William (Archie), AM

12:09 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you. The silence across this nation is deafening from the passing of a beautiful soul—a beautiful uncle, grandfather, father, brother, son—of Gunditjmara, of Djab Wurrung, of Keerray Woorroong, of my people. Framlingham Mission is where Uncle Archie came from. It was tough on Framlingham Mission in those days. Our people were given rations. Our people were treated like animals on mission reserves around this country.

Uncle Archie Roach was a baby on Framlingham Mission, where he was born. He was treated like an animal because of the colour of his skin. He was disrespected by the society he lived in. He was taunted with racism for most of his life. But he's fighting Gunditjmara, and he got through those difficult times at Framlingham Mission, where my grandmothers grew up, where my grandmothers come from and where my grandmothers were a part of Uncle Archie's care and love.

He was stolen from Framlingham Mission. He was a stolen Aboriginal child in this country. He wrote songs about being stolen, which everybody listens to. They love putting on Uncle Archie's healing, soulful music. The story behind the man and the song goes so much deeper than putting on his CD or turning on the radio. His story in song was a call to this nation to stop stealing our babies, because his babies were also at risk of being stolen—his two beautiful sons, Amos and Eban, whom I've seen grow up with beautiful love and care from community and his beautiful parents, Uncle Archie and Aunty Ruby.

They were a dynamite couple when I was growing up in Fitzroy. Everyone loved Uncle Archie and Aunty Ruby. He'd sing in the park, with the parkies, with his guitar. He even sang at my 21st with Aunty Ruby, because he's family. He wasn't that famous when he played at my 21st, but I'll claim it!

I just hope that a condolence motion also means that people are listening to the heartache and the pain that this man endured all his life. He turned that around. He put it into words of music and song to share with the rest of the country, to learn and to heal from. Aunty Ruby was his backbone, and, when she passed, a piece of Uncle Archie went with her. They were inseparable.

I just want to pay my respects to Aunty Diane and Aunty Myrtle. Aunty Myrtle still lives in the public housing unit in Collingwood; Archie's sister still struggles with the day-to-day life of being black in this country. Uncle Archie's family aren't immune to how this country treats First Nations people, and I know Uncle Archie was proud of me getting into the Victorian senate and of me getting in here. I know that because he told me. I know that because I'm still connected to his boys, and the intergenerational trauma of being stolen from your mother when you were four years of age never, ever ends. The symptoms that you all call 'issues'—'Aboriginal issues'—are symptoms of colonisation; stealing children was part of the plan to colonise this country, so we could lose our language, our identity, our connection to country, and our connection to totem and to song and dance.

I pay my respects to the absolute resilience and warrior man that was, and still is, Uncle Archie. Next time you put on Uncle Archie's music, remember his story—and remember that his story is happening today, that it will happen tomorrow and that it will happen the next day. Unless everyone in this chamber is willing to change that, it will continue forever.

So no more stealing children. Let's ensure that Uncle Archie's legacy and fight didn't go unheard. Let's continue his legacy, to ensure that no more children are stolen from their mothers' arms in this country.


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