Celebrated indigenous singer, songwriter and guitarist Archie Roach was among the musicians recognized in the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours list, published on Monday (June 8). Roach, a Gunditjmara Bundjalung man, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for his significant service to the performing arts and to the community as a spokesman for social justice.
Roach’s latest accolade comes on the 25th anniversary of the release of his debut solo album, Charcoal Lane, which featured “Took the Children Away,” a song which explored his experience as a member of the Stolen Generations (children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were forcibly removed from their families).
The song won a pair of ARIA Awards and an international Human Rights Achievement Award, making him the first person ever to receive the honor for a song.
The inspirational artist has toured with some of the world’s leading artists, from Leonard Cohen, Rodriguez and Bob Dylan to Tracy Chapman, Billy Bragg, Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading, Suzanne Vega and Patti Smith.
In 2013, “Took the Children Away” was added to the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra as part of the Sounds of Australia collection.
Away from the stage, he’s a spokesperson for social justice, working in indigenous communities around Australia and mentoring many young and emerging indigenous artists. He has also supported the group Recognise, part of Reconciliation Australia, which promotes reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and indigenous peoples.
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Roach said that he was pleased to be included in the Queen’s list “as an indigenous first nations Australian”. “From my own perspective, I think music has a way of drawing people in, more so than other forms of political endeavor,” he said.
Roach is currently working with producer Craig Pilkington on a new album Let Love Rule, which is slated for release later this year through Liberation Music, an affiliate of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group.
Also feted by the Queen was John Foreman, the musical director who has worked on such events as the Sydney Olympics and the Australian Idol series and has served as creative director for the Sydney Australia Day events.
Foreman has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the performing arts.
The system of awards was established by Queen Elizabeth II of England and the commonwealth states, which include Australia, in recognition of special achievements by the country’s citizens.