Australia is in mourning following the passing of First Nations artist Archie Roach, aged 66.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung Senior Elder, songman and storyteller Archie Roach,” the singer and songwriter’s family said in a statement last night.
“Archie passed, surrounded by his family and loved ones, at Warrnambool Base Hospital after a long illness. We thank all the staff who have cared for Archie over the past month.”
Tributes have been flowing from all walks of life; a testament to the legacy left by the artist who drew global attention to the plight of Australia’s Stolen Generations.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was one of the first to pay tribute to Roach on social media.
“Tonight we mourn the passing of Archie Roach,” he wrote. “Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller.”
Tonight we mourn the passing of Archie Roach.
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Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller.
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) July 30, 2022
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews also paid tribute to the 2020 Victorian Australian of the Year.
“Few people have put the pain, the suffering, the hope and the pride of Aboriginal people into words like Archie Roach,” he wrote.
“His music is remarkable because it tells a remarkable story. His own story.”
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.
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) July 30, 2022
Blues musician Ash Grunwald said he was “heartbroken” by the news of Roach’s passing.
“He was a massive inspiration to so many of us. I grew up listening to his music and was in awe every time I was lucky enough to talk with him and hear him live,” he shared on Instagram. “Through his direct, personal, songwriting combined with his thick soulful voice he took us to a spiritual place.
“His music touched me very deeply and through it I felt what it was like to be part of the ‘stolen generation’ and to be an Aboriginal man living on the streets of Melbourne. He did so much for all Australians by telling his story. RIP Uncle Archie.”
Amy Shark tweeted that she and husband Shane Billings had just been listening to Roach before they heard the news.
“On a 5 hour drive today, Shane and I randomly listened to Archie Roach’s ‘Jamu Dreaming’ from start to finish,” she wrote. “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.”
First Nations artist Emma Donovan, who earlier this year recorded Archie Roach’s ‘Get Back To The Land’ with The Teskey Brothers, shared a series of photos to Facebook, including a hand written letter.
“Paying my deep Respect & Condolences to Gunditjmara, Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung, Bundgjalung senior Elders Communities and loved Roach & Hunter Families,” she wrote.
“Thinking of all Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Musical Elders & Families & All musicians connected to Uncle. My Love & Strength to Amos & Eben Roach, all Children & family in this sorry time.”
Dan Sultan paid tribute to his “uncle,” “mentor,” and “friend” with a musical tribute on Instagram.
The tributes are still flowing today.
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! You’ll never be forgotten. Rest in Peace. Sincerest condolences to all the family. pic.twitter.com/7OVBfvRldw
— Cathy Freeman (@CathyFreeman) July 30, 2022
One of my favourite photos, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach and my brother Steve Connolly during the recording of 'Charcoal Lane' in 1990. A really important record. Vale Archie, you were much loved and respected. RIP. pic.twitter.com/nPIsTW9Bnj
— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) July 30, 2022
Thank you Unc, for everything. Rest easy. pic.twitter.com/sDWukR4jpu
— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) July 30, 2022
Archie Roach had been suffering from ill health for some time. He suffered a stroke in 2010, and fought lung cancer. But he continued to perform, announcing his farewell tour in 2020 and performing at his seventh and final Womadelaide Festival just last year.
In October 2020, Roach launched the Archie Roach Stolen Generation Educational Resources, a free package of educational support materials developed by First Nations curriculum writers to help teach young Australians about Indigenous Australia, cultural identity and the Stolen Generations.
Roach’s sons, Amos and Eban Roach, have given permission for their father’s name, image and music to be used, “so that his legacy will continue to inspire”.