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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Legend of Ruby and Archie

When Archie said that he didn't want to be a professional musician, Ruby said ‘It’s not all about you, Archie Roach! How many blackfellas you reckon get to record an album?’

1Ruby Hunter, 1996 (printed 2012) Jacqueline Mitelman. © Jacqueline Mitelman. 2Archie Roach, 1992 (printed 2010) Bill McAuley. © Bill McAuley. 3Portrait of Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter, c. 1999 Terry Milligan. National Library of Australia. © Terry Milligan.

Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach met on Archie’s first day in South Australia in 1973, the young nomad having flipped a coin on the Sturt Highway to decide whether he’d go west – to Adelaide, or east – to Melbourne. ‘I remember it clear as day. She had a blue dress on, white socks up to her knees … And big brown eyes – biggest eyes I’d ever seen.’ They were both of the Stolen Generations: he was a seventeen year-old Gunditjmara and Bundjalung man with little knowledge of his family; she was sixteen – a Ngarrindjeri woman who knew her Country and invited Archie in, encouraging him to explore his own.  With their lived experiences poignantly informing their work, each became successful musicians, with careers enmeshed in an enduring personal and creative partnership.  Devastated upon Ruby’s sudden passing in 2010, Archie drew on her strength to continue: ‘I could hear Ruby’s voice say “wake up to yourself”… so I did.’

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.