Archie Roach enters ARIA Hall of Fame
Archie Roach brought the tragedy and heartbreak of his experience as a member of the Stolen Generations to musical life with the harrowing beauty of Took The Children Away.
As that song celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Roach is finally being welcomed to the ARIA Hall of Fame at this year's ARIA Awards.
Roach is only the fourth Indigenous artist to be inducted to the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1988, and follows Jimmy Little (1999), Kev Carmody (2009) and Yothu Yindi (2012).
The announcement is timely, coming in the middle of NAIDOC Week 2020 celebrations, and ahead of the release of The Songs Of Charcoal Lane on Friday, a reimagining of his debut album 30 years after its release.
It naturally features a new version of Took The Children Away, recorded around his kitchen table at his home in regional Victoria, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown.
Roach sees his ARIA Hall of Fame nod as not only an honour for more than three decades of compelling musical storytelling but an opportunity to reignite the push for the Federal Government to act on the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
"The government just put it aside and that was hard to see. We are trying to have a conversation, a true, honest, open conversation with the people we need to and they are just ignoring it," Roach said.
"We need to keep going and gather more momentum. How long do we need to get things right? It's been a long time, sometimes you get a little weary and tired and you just want to throw your hands in the air and go 'That's it.'
"But you can't because I believe we can still find a way."
Music could be one way. Roach's song not only provokes tears whenever he performs it but has inspired a children's picture book - illustrated with works by his late wife Ruby Hunter.
Midnight Oil's The Makarrata Project, a collaboration with First Nation artists, topped the ARIA album charts last weekend.
Roach believes music is a valuable medium for teaching history - and truth-telling about the treatment of Indigenous people over the past two centuries - to adults and children alike.
"People should not be afraid or scared of it. There's Captain Cook and there's Burke and Wills and everybody else, but we can't pick and choose what we want from Australian history, this is how the country got started and we need to own that history," he said.
The highlights of his illustrious music career are many from touring with Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading and meeting Paul Simon to building what he sees as a genuine relationship with his audience.
But what does Roach see as his finest achievement? For a man who has endured many health battles over the decades, the answer is simple.
"Just to be here actually is a great highlight of my life," he said, smiling widely.
The 2020 ARIA Awards will be held on November 25, with organisers confirming leading nominees including Lime Cordiale, Tame Impala, Sampa The Great and Amy Shark will perform during the ceremony.
Originally published as Archie Roach enters ARIA Hall of Fame