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Archie Roach
Archie Roach 2016.jpg
Archie Roach in 2016
Background information
Birth name Archibald William Roach
Born 8 January 1956 (1956-01-08) (age 65)
Mooroopna, Victoria, Australia
Genres Alternative rock, world, roots
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, six-string guitar
Years active 1980s–present
Labels Mushroom, Liberation Music, ABC Music
Associated acts The Altogethers, Ruby Hunter

Archibald William Roach AM (born 8 January 1956) is an Aboriginal (Gunditjmara and Bundjalung) Australian musician. He is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and a campaigner for the rights of Indigenous Australians.

Roach's debut solo album, Charcoal Lane, was released in 1990. It featured the song "Took the Children Away", which was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2013. Also in 2013, he won a Deadly Award for a "Lifetime Contribution to Healing the Stolen Generations" as well as for Album of the Year. Along with fellow Deadly winner Pat O'Shane, he called for an end to the Northern Territory Intervention. Roach has toured around the globe, headlining and opening shows for Joan Armatrading, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and Patti Smith. At the 2020 ARIA Music Awards on 25 November 2020, Roach was inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Life and career

1956–1980s: Early life

Archibald William Roach was born on 8 January 1956 in Mooroopna, Victoria. Mooroopna is named after an Aboriginal word referring to a bend in the Goulburn River, near Shepparton in central Victoria. In 1956, Roach's family, along with the rest of the area's Indigenous population, were re-housed on Rumbalara mission. Roach and his family subsequently moved to Framlingham, where his mother had been born.

At the age of 4, Roach and his sisters, along with the other Indigenous Australian children of the stolen generations, were forcibly removed from their family by Australian government agencies and placed in an orphanage. After two unpleasant placements in foster care, Roach was eventually fostered by Alex and Dulcie Cox, a family of Scottish immigrants in Melbourne. Alex Cox would sing traditional ballads and introduced Roach to guitar and keyboards. Roach said "He was a big influence on me — a good influence. I'll love him to the day I die."

At the age of fifteen, Roach was contacted by his natural sister, who told him their mother had just died. He spent the next fourteen years on the streets, battling alcoholism. Roach met his future wife, Ruby Hunter, at a Salvation Army drop-in centre known as the People's Palace in Adelaide when she was sixteen.

1989–2000: Charcoal Lane, Jamu Dreaming and Looking for Butter Boy

In the late 1980s, Roach and Hunter formed a band, the Altogethers, with several other Indigenous Australians and moved to Melbourne. At the urging of Henry "Uncle Banjo" Clark, Roach wrote his first song, "Took the Children Away", which he performed on a community radio station in Melbourne and on an Indigenous current affairs program in 1988. Australian musician Paul Kelly invited Roach to open his concert early in 1989, where he performed "Took the Children Away", a song telling the story of the Stolen Generations and his own experience of being forcibly removed from his family. His performance was met with stunned silence, followed by shattering applause.

In 1990, with the encouragement of Kelly, Roach recorded his debut solo album, Charcoal Lane, which was released in May 1990. The album was certified gold and awarded two ARIA Awards at the 1991 ceremony. The album included "Took the Children Away" which became one of the most important songs in Australia's contemporary history. In 1990, Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's awarded the song its first Human Rights Award for songwriting. Charcoal Lane featured in the top 50 albums for 1992 by Rolling Stone magazine.

In May 1993, Roach released his second studio album, Jamu Dreaming. The album was recorded with musical assistance from David Bridie, Tiddas, Paul Kelly, Vika and Linda Bull, Ruby Hunter, Dave Arden and Joe Geia. The album peaked at number 55 on the ARIA Charts.

In 1995, Roach toured extensively throughout the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. He returned to Australia to record the title track for ATSIC's Native Title CD, Our Home, Our Land, with Tiddas, Kev Carmody, Bart Willoughby, Shane Howard and Bunna Laurie. In 1996, Roach performed as part of a presentation to the Human Rights Commission's Inquiry into the Stolen Generations, before embarking on a national tour as a guest of Tracy Chapman.

In October 1997, Roach released his third studio album, Looking for Butter Boy, which was recorded on his traditional land at Port Fairy in south-western Victoria. The album's lead single, "Hold On Tight", won the ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release in 1997 and the album won the same award at the 1998 award ceremony.

2001–2009: Sensual Being and Journey

In July 2002, Roach released his fourth studio album, Sensual Being, which peaked at number 59 on the ARIA charts. In 2002, he worked on the Rolf de Heer film The Tracker.

In 2004, Roach and Hunter collaborated with the Australian Art Orchestra and Paul Grabowsky to create a musical experience titled Ruby. Ruby tells the story of Ruby Hunter from her birth near a billabong on the banks of the Murray River, through the stolen generation, search for identity and the discovery of hope through love. In 2004, it won The Deadly Awards for "Excellence in Film & Theatrical Score".

In October 2007, Roach released Journey, an album of songs as a companion piece to a documentary film called Liyarn Ngarn, made with Roach, Patrick Dodson and Pete Postlethwaite.

In November 2009, ABC Music released previously unreleased Roach recordings from 1988 under the album title 1988.

2010–2016: Into the Bloodstream and Let Love Rule

Archie Roach
Archie Roach performing at WOMADelaide in 2011.

In October 2012, Roach released Into the Bloodstream, an album he described as being built on pain following the death of his wife in February 2010.

In October 2013, Roach released Creation, a 4-CD box set of his first four studio albums. The album was released to coincide with the premiere of Roach's new live show, also entitled Creation, which debuted at the inaugural Boomerang Festival in Byron Bay from 4–6 October 2013.

At the APRA Music Awards of 2015 2015, Roach (and Shane Howard) won Best Original Song Composed for the Screen "The Secret River" from The Secret River.

In November 2015, Roach celebrated the 25th anniversary of Charcoal Lane with a deluxe remastered edition. The new edition included a second disc featuring previously unreleased Triple J - Live At The Wireless recordings and new interpretations of classic Charcoal Lane material by various artists. In November and December 2015, Roach undertook a national tour to celebrate the album's 25th anniversary.

In November 2016, Roach released his seventh studio album, Let Love Rule, which peaked at number 24 on the ARIA Charts, becoming his highest charting album to date.

2017–present: The Concert Collection 2012–2018 and Tell Me Why

At the APRA Music Awards of 2017 in March 2017, Roach won the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.

In April 2018, Roach performed at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony on the Gold Coast with Amy Shark.

In May 2019, Roach released The Concert Collection 2012–2018 and in July 2019, was nominated for two awards at the 2019 National Indigenous Music Awards.

In November 2019, Roach released a memoir and companion album titled, Tell Me Why. The album's lead single "Open Up Your Eyes" is the first song Roach ever wrote, dating back to the late 1970s, but it has never been recorded until now. Tell Me Why became Roach's first top ten album on the ARIA Charts. His book was shortlisted for the 2020 Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction and won the 2020 Indie Book Non-Fiction Award. It also won the Audiobook of the Year at the 2021 Australian Book Industry Awards.

Personal life

Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach1
Roach (right) with Ruby Hunter at the 2009 Tamworth Country Music Festival

Roach currently lives on a homestead near Berri, South Australia, with his children. His home has become something of a refuge for troubled Aboriginal youngsters, now dealing with some of the problems he himself faced. Roach is a supporter of Justice Action, a criminal justice reform organisation based in Sydney, Australia.

Roach's wife, Ruby Hunter, died on 17 February 2010 aged 54. On 14 October 2010, Roach suffered a stroke while working in the Kimberley region. After recuperating, he returned to live performance in April 2011. He has also survived lung cancer, due to early diagnosis in 2011 and major surgery.

Awards and nominations

AIR Awards

The Australian Independent Record Awards (commonly known informally as AIR Awards) is an annual awards night to recognise, promote and celebrate the success of Australia's Independent Music sector.

Year Nominated work Award Result
AIR Awards of 2017 Let Love Rule Best Independent Blues and Roots Album Nominated

APRA Awards

The APRA Awards are held in Australia and New Zealand by the Australasian Performing Right Association to recognise songwriting skills, sales and airplay performance by its members annually.

Year Nominated work Award Result
APRA Music Awards of 2017 Archie Roach Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music Won

ARIA Awards

Roach has received eight ARIA Music Awards from twenty nominations.

Year Nominated work Award Result
1991 Charcoal Lane Best New Talent Won
Best Indigenous Release Won
Breakthrough Artist - Album Nominated
"Took the Children Away" Breakthrough Artist – Single Nominated
1992 "Down City Streets" Best Indigenous Release Nominated
1994 Jamu Dreaming Best Indigenous Release Nominated
1997 "Hold On Tight" Best Indigenous Release Won
1998 Looking for Butter Boy Best Indigenous Release Won
Best Adult Contemporary Album Won
2002 Sensual Being Best Adult Contemporary Album Nominated
Sensual Being Producer of the Year Nominated
The Tracker Best Original Soundtrack Album Nominated
2008 Journey Best World Music Album Nominated
2010 1988 Best World Music Album Nominated
2013 Into the Bloodstream Best Blues & Roots Album Nominated
2017 Let Love Rule Best Blues & Roots Album Nominated
2020 Tell Me Why Best Male Artist Won
Best Adult Contemporary Album Won
Best Independent Release Nominated
Archie Roach Hall of Fame Inductee

Australia Council for the Arts

The Australia Council for the Arts arts funding and advisory body for the Government of Australia. Since 1993, it has awarded a Red Ochre Award. It it presented to an outstanding Indigenous Australian (Aboriginal Australian or Torres Strait Islander) artist for lifetime achievement.

Year Nominated work Award Result
2011 himself Red Ochre Award Awarded

Deadly Awards

The Deadly Awards, (commonly known simply as The Deadlys), was an annual celebration of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in music, sport, entertainment and community. They ran from 1996 to 2013.

Year Nominated work Award Result
Deadly Awards 1997 "himself" Male Artist of the Year Won
Deadly Awards 1998 "himself" Male Artist of the Year Won
Deadly Awards 2002 "himself" Male Artist of the Year Won
Sensual Being Album of the Year Won
Deadly Awards 2003 "himself" Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Won
Deadly Awards 2004 Ruby (with Ruby Hunter and Paul Grabowsky) Excellence in Film & Theatrical Score Won
Deadly Awards 2010 1988 Album of the Year Won
Deadly Awards 2013 Into the Bloodstream Album of the Year Won
"himself" The Lifetime Contribution Award For Healing The Stolen Generations inductee

Don Banks Music Award

The Don Banks Music Award was established in 1984 to publicly honour a senior artist of high distinction who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to music in Australia. It was founded by the Australia Council in honour of Don Banks, Australian composer, performer and the first chair of its music board.

Year Nominated work Award Result
2015 Archie Roach Don Banks Music Award Won

J Awards

The J Awards are an annual series of Australian music awards that were established by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's youth-focused radio station Triple J. They commenced in 2005.

Year Nominated work Award Result
J Awards of 2020 Archie Roach Double J Artist of the Year Won

Music Victoria Awards

The Music Victoria Awards, are an annual awards night celebrating Victorian music. The commenced in 2005 (although nominee and winners are unknown from 2005-2012).

Year Nominated work Award Result
2013 himself Best Indigenous Act Nominated
himself Best Male Artist Nominated
Into the Bloodstream Best Folk Roots Album Won
2015 himself Hall of Fame inductee
2017 himself Best Indigenous Act Nominated

National Dreamtime Awards

The National Dreamtime Awards, are an annual celebration of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in sport, arts, academic and community. They commenced in 2017

Year Nominated work Award Result
2018 himself Achievement award Won

National Indigenous Music Awards

The National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMA) recognise excellence, dedication, innovation and outstanding contribution to the Northern Territory music industry. The commenced in 2004.

Year Nominated work Award Result
2013 "himself" Hall of Fame Inductee Inductee
Into the Bloodstream Album of the Year Won
Cover Art of the Year Won
"Song to Sing" Film Clip of the Year Won
Song of the Year Nominated
2018 himself Artist of the Year Nominated
2019 "himself" Artist of the Year Nominated
The Concert Collection 2012-2018 Album of the Year Nominated
2020 "himself" Artist of the Year Nominated
Tell Me Why Album of the Year Won


  • In 2011, Roach was one of the first people inducted to the Victorian Aboriginal HonourRoll.
  • In 2015, Roach was honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours list as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to music as a singer-songwriter, guitarist and a prominent supporter of social justice.
  • Roach was named the 2020 Victorian Australian of the Year, he received the 2020 Victorian of the Year Award.


Studio albums

List of Studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
Charcoal Lane
  • Released: May 1990
  • Label: Aurura, Mushroom Records (D30386)
  • Formats: CD, cassette
  • ARIA: Gold
Jamu Dreaming
  • Released: May 1993
  • Label: Aurura, Mushroom (D30851)
  • Formats: CD, cassette
Looking for Butter Boy
  • Released: October 1997
  • Label: Aurura, Mushroom (320122)
  • Formats: CD
Sensual Being
  • Released: 22 July 2002
  • Label: Mushroom (335192)
  • Formats: CD
  • Released: 29 October 2007
  • Label: Liberation (LIBCD9259.2)
  • Formats: CD
Into the Bloodstream
  • Released: 19 October 2012
  • Label: Liberation (LMCD0197)
  • Formats: CD
Let Love Rule
  • Released: 11 November 2016
  • Label: Liberation (LMCD0297)
  • Formats: CD, DD, streaming
Dancing with My Spirit
  • Released: 13 April 2018
  • Label: Mushroom Music Publishing (335192)
  • Formats: CD, DD, streaming, LP
Tell Me Why
  • Released: 1 November 2019
  • Label: Bloodlines Records (BLOOD62)
  • Formats: 2×CD, DD, streaming, LP
The Songs of Charcoal Lane
  • Released: 13 November 2020
  • Label: Bloodlines Records (BLOOD83)
  • Formats: CD, DD, streaming
  • Re-recorded Charcoal Lane
0to be released-12-33
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

List of Live albums, with selected chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions
(with Ruby Hunter, Paul Grabowsky and Australian Art Orchestra)
  • Released: 2005
  • Label: Australian Art Orchestra
  • Formats: CD
The Concert Collection 2012–2018
  • Released: 17 May 2019
  • Label: Bloodlines (BLOOD54)
  • Formats: CD, DD, streaming

Soundtrack albums

List of soundtrack albums, with selected chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions
The Tracker
  • Released: 12 August 2002
  • Label: Mushroom (334932)
  • Formats: CD
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums

List of compilation albums
Title Details
The Definitive Collection
  • Released: 5 July 2004
  • Label: Festival, Warner Music Australia (337682)
  • Format: CD
Music Deli Presents Archie Roach 1988
  • Released: November 2009
  • Label: ABC Music (1791253)
  • Format: CD
  • NB: Early recordings from 1988
  • Released: 4 October 2013
  • Label: Aurora, Festival (FEST601011)
  • Format: 4-CD box set of Roach's first 4 studio albums


List of singles as lead artist
Title Year Album
"Took the Children Away" 1990 Charcoal Lane
"Down City Streets" 1991
"From Paradise" 1993 Jamu Dreaming
"Walking into Doors"
"Hold On Tight" 1997 Looking for Butter Boy
"Watching Over Me"
"All Men Choose the Path They Walk" 2002 The Tracker
"Alien Invasion" Sensual Being
"A Child Was Born Tonight" 2005 Ruby
"Song to Sing" 2012 Into the Bloodstream
"We Won't Cry"
"Colour of Your Jumper" 2013
(Mau Power featuring Archie Roach)
2014 The Show Will Go On
"It's Not Too Late" 2016 Let Love Rule
"Get Back to the Land"
"Open Your Eyes" 2019 Tell Me Why
"Rally Round the Drum" (with Paul Kelly)

Other singles

List of other singles
Title Year
"Our Home, Our Land"
(with various artists)
"Yil Lull"
(as Singers for the Red Black & Gold)
"You're the Voice"
(as United Voices Against Domestic Violence)
"Song for Elijah (Wrap Our Arms Around You)"
(with various artists)
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