Archie Roach, the legendary Indigenous Australian artist whose song “Took the Children Away” was recognized with a Human Rights Medal, has been posthumously awarded in the Australia Day honors.
Roach is appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for his service to the performing arts and to Indigenous rights and reconciliation, officials announced on Jan. 26 — Australia’s national day.
The Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung senior elder, songman, prolific storyteller and First Nations champion contributed some of this country’s finest works, across a 30-year-plus career, spanning eight albums.
Few songs can touch quite like Roach’s 1991 song “Took The Children Away,” a heartbreaking tale of the enforced separation of First Nations children from their families.
The song received an international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time that the honor had been bestowed on a songwriter.
Roach, or Uncle Arch as he was lovingly known, was celebrated on numerous occasions during his lifetime. He was made a Member of The Order of Australia (AM) (in 2015), and received the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music (in 2017).
The songsmith was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2020, marking the 30th anniversary of the release of Charcoal Lane, his debut full length album which carried “Took The Children Away.” The song is now preserved in the National Film And Sound Archive Of Australia.
Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to supporting others. In 2014, he founded The Archie Roach Foundation which established to “nurture meaningful and potentially life changing opportunities” for young First Nation artists.
When he died July 30, 2022 after a long illness, at the age of 66, prime minister Anthony Albanese led tributes.
Though Roach has left us, his music continues to resonate. At the 2022 ARIA Awards, Roach posthumously won best independent release for “One Song,” the final song he wrote.
“One Song” is one of 20 contenders for the coveted song of the year at the 2023 APRA Music Awards, set for April 27 at Sydney’s ICC.
See the complete Australia Day Honours List here.