He maimai aroha - Aboriginal artist Archie Roach remembered

By Marena Mane

An indigenous aboriginal singer-songwriter, guitarist and activist, Archie Roach, a Gunditjmara and Bundjalung elder, died on Saturday, at the age of 66.

Archie Roach's most influential song, Took the children away, was released in 1990 and became the anthem of the stolen generations in Australia.

In the song, he describes his own painful story, of being forcibly removed from his family, and raised in Melbourne by Scottish immigrants. His song educates Australians about one of the darkest chapters in their history.

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran says "Uncle Archie" was a legend of Aboriginal music and culture, “one of the only people to put forward in musical terms the story of the tragedy of being part of the stolen generation".

Moran says Roach revealed the Australian government's assimilation policy to many communities, telling them that it removed Aboriginal children and forced them into foster homes or institutions that would train them to become slaves and used for labour.

“Uncle Archie will always be remembered for what he did for us in that song.”

According to Moran, Roach first sang Took the children away in 1988 at a protest in Gadigal country (Sydney) against the bicentennial celebrations of Australia.

“He openly acknowledged that it was his contribution to the cause to sing that song and tell his story as a survivor of the stolen generation.”

Took the children away

Moran says it was so uplifting to hear the song about survival, endurance and resilience.

“The fact that the song ends, that he came home. I think, for many of us, that did not occur.”

“In 2008 when Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister, he offered an apology for the treatment of Aboriginal people suffering under the assimilation policy of the government to breed us out, to assimilate us, break our culture and identities and that was the song that played and represented that very moment.”