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Indigenous performer Archie Roach dies


WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this story contains images of a person who is deceased.

Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung Senior Elder, songman and storyteller Archie Roach has died, aged 66.

The Australian singer-songwriter’s death was confirmed by his record label on Saturday evening, in a statement on behalf of his family.

Sons Amos and Eban Roach “have given permission for Archie’s name, image and music to be used, so that his legacy will continue to inspire,” it said.

Archie Roach
Archie Roach has died at the age of 66. (Supplied/Phil Nitchie)

Roach, a member of the Stolen Generation, passed away on Saturday surrounded by his family and loved ones, at Warrnambool Base Hospital in Victoria following a long illness.

The singer, who survived a stroke in 2010 was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. He took to the stage at the St Kilda Festival in February this year, wearing a breathing aide.

“We thank all the staff who have cared for Archie over the past month,” the statement said.

“Archie wanted all of his many fans to know how much he loves you for supporting him along the way.

“We are so proud of everything our dad achieved in his remarkable life. He was a healer and unifying force.

The singer took to the stage at the St Kilda Festival in February this year, wearing breathing aides.
The singer took to the stage at the St Kilda Festival in February this year, wearing breathing aides. (Scott McNaughton / The Age)

“His music brought people together.”

Many took to social media to pay tribute to the iconic Australian, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller,” the PM tweeted.

“Archie’s music drew from a well of trauma and pain, but it flowed with a beauty and a resonance that moved us all.

“We grieve for his death, we honour his life and we hold to the hope that his words, his music and his indomitable spirit will live on to guide us and inspire us.”

While Victorian Premier Dan Andrews wrote: “Few people have put the pain, the suffering, the hope and the pride of Aboriginal people into words like Archie Roach.

“His music is remarkable because it tells a remarkable story. His own story.”

Cathy Freeman said she was “So saddened to hear the passing of such a champion for First Nations people and all humanity”

“I will remember (Uncle) Archie Roach as such a courageous story teller and remarkable musician!,” the Olympian added.

“You’ll never be forgotten. Rest in Peace. Sincerest condolences to all the family.”

Musician Amy Shark said she had been listening to Roach’s music earlier in the day.

“On a 5 hour drive today, Shane and I randomly listened to Archie Roach’s ‘Jamu Dreaming’ from start to finish,” she tweeted.

“Discussing how heartbreakingly beautiful the song “walking into doors” is. I was so lucky to have performed with this legend. I’m so sad to now hear of his passing.”

Roach was named 2020 Victoria Australian of the Year, where he paid tribute to his late partner Ruby Hunter (also known as Aunty Ruby, a Ngarrindjeri and Erawirung woman), who died in 2010.

Later the same year, the performer was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and in 2013, he received a Deadly Award for a Lifetime Contribution to Healing the Stolen Generations.

Two mosaic pillars were errected on the edge of Lake Bonney in the South Australian Barmera Riverland in May this year, in tribute to the couple and honouring their legacy in the region.

The activist was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2015 and made a Member of the Order of Australia.

While he was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2011.

The singer’s 2019 memoir Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music was awarded the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award during a virtual ceremony in February 2021.

Archie Roach. February 01, 1993. (Photo by Lisa Thomasetti, Aurora).
Archie Roach photographed in February 1993 (Lisa Thomasetti, Aurora)

“We need to understand and write about the First People’s experience and history as well [as migrants’ experiences] because they’re both connected, they’re intertwined,” he said in his acceptance statement at the time.

“We can’t separate the two, really.”

The family will hold a private ceremony to mark the life of the performer.



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