Archie Roach AM, music legend and Stolen Generations survivor, is one of Australia’s most powerful songwriters and storytellers. His deeply personal song stories and more recently his books, Tell Me Why and Took The Children Away, shed light on the devastating government policies that still impact thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families.
The Archie Roach Stolen Generations Resources were created during COVID-19 by Culture Is Life, in collaboration with the Archie Roach Foundation, to honour the 30th anniversary of Took The Children Away from Uncle Archie’s multi-award-winning 1990 debut album Charcoal Lane. The lyrics of this internationally recognised iconic song have been beautifully translated into a picture book to guide critical conversations about the Stolen Generations. It features evocative illustrations by Uncle Archie’s late partner and musical collaborator Ruby Hunter, who was also part of the Stolen Generations.
The Archie Roach Foundation and Culture Is Life are united in preserving the stories of our First Nations Elders and nurturing the next generations of leaders. The Archie Roach Stolen Generations Resources hope to ignite a sense of place, belonging, community and identity for all Australians.
YouTube series – ‘Took The Children Away’
The Stolen Generations – Learning about the past to help shape the future
In connecting with the Elders’ stories through these resources, we acknowledge the Stolen Generations and their families, those who were separated and never found their way home, those who are still healing and those who continue to endure the intergenerational impact. We hope our country really listens and learns to respect and understand the history and cultures of the First Peoples of this country so that past practices are never repeated.
Government policies that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families are a dark chapter in Australian history. Through his songwriting and in particular Took the Children Away, Uncle Archie has voiced the trauma experienced by First Nations people since colonisation.
These are confronting but critical lessons for our nation. In truth-telling we can shape perspectives and heal relationships. In his gentle way, Uncle Archie has sung the stories of his people’s experiences of racism, discrimination and attempted genocide, and asks us to listen and feel deeply. It is this sharing of stories, of truth-telling, that helps all Australians heal.
“My song Took The Children Away is important to me because it’s part of my healing and it was the only way I could get it out or talk about it. It helped me deal with the trauma of being taken away as a child from my family. I’m lucky I have music to do that.”
“It’s also important for younger people across this country to hear this song and understand it, because it’s an Australian story. It’s something that happened in this county and it’s still happening.” Archie Roach
The importance of First People’s voices and stories
As the oldest surviving culture in the world, we have stories going back thousands of generations told through ancient songlines, stories told in song, dance, art — a shared oral history anchored in this land’s identity.
To ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are heard in the national curriculum, it is critical that these voices and perspectives come from First Peoples themselves. Our stories need to be told so that all Australians can deepen their understanding, especially their role and place in sharing this country’s ancestral stories. This custodial responsibility means we must look to all of our history and how it has shaped us as a nation.
The Archie Roach Stolen Generations Resources have been created using song, books and stories to promote critical conversations across the country.
To further explore our young people’s voices and perspectives, we encourage educators to look out for Uncle Archie’s memoir, Tell Me Why for Young Adults, to be published in March 2021.
We would like to acknowledge Uncle Archie for his generosity, passion and dedication to our First Peoples and Stolen Generations survivors, and for all the healing work he has done sharing his song stories and spirit with the world.
We deeply honour the strength, knowledge and wisdom of our Elders in sharing the traumas they have endured, and in telling the truths of this country in the hope that we can heal as a nation and not repeat past wrongs.
In particular we sincerely acknowledge and thank the Elders who shared their stories in these videos and guided the content to be best delivered and learnt from in schools.
- Aunty Lorraine Peeters for her courage and vulnerability in sharing her story and informing the resources to best honour our survivors and Archie’s music for healing.
- Aunty Eva Jo Edwards for her tireless work ensuring that Stolen Generations voices and stories are recognised and valued and her engagement of Stolen Generations survivors in this project through the National Redress Scheme and Connecting Home Victoria.
- Uncle Jack Charles for his passion and commitment to First Peoples, in particular those in justice and out-of-home care, who we honour and to whom we will share Elders’ stories to ensure Elders’ messages reach all of our young people in the community.
- Aunty Iris Bysouth for her kindness in sharing her experiences and commitment to Stolen Generations survivors and families through her work as a Bringing Them Home worker in Victoria.
- Uncle Syd Jackson for his compassion and strength in serving others through his work on Roelands Mission in WA, inspiring so many through his work and story.
Our First Nations project leads and curriculum writers dedicated to honouring our Elders’ stories and ensuring our non-Indigenous educators connect with the same respect and admiration we have for our survivors. Culture Is Life’s CEO and co-curriculum writer Belinda Duarte, Project Manager and co-curriculum writer Thara Brown, and teacher, media presenter and co-curriculum writer Shelley Ware, as well as our footage editor Matthew Cleaves.
A special mention to Jill Shelton, for her exceptional leadership and ongoing commitment to the music industry and First Nations artists, her dedication to Uncle Archie’s life and music, and for impactful work through the Archie Roach Foundation. And to Erica Wagner for ongoing editorial support and publishing assistance.
To ABC’s Indigenous Advisory Group, the Neville Bonner Committee Deputy-Chair Kelly Wiliams and Chair Bronwyn Purvis, Head of ABC Education Annabel Astbury and the dedicated team at the ABC.