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Ruby Hunter

1955 – 2010

Ruby Hunter (1955-2010), singer/songwriter, was a Ngarrindjeri/ Kukatha/ Pitjantjatjara woman from South Australia. At the age of eight she was taken from her family and placed in the Seaforth Children’s Home; she later lived with a foster family. At sixteen she met Archie Roach at a Salvation Army drop-in centre; they were inseparable partners for life. Having settled into family life with her, and having beaten his alcohol dependency, he wrote his first song, ‘Took the Children Away’, which he performed in Melbourne on community radio and an Indigenous current affairs program in 1988. As his career skyrocketed, Hunter won Deadlys in 2000 for Female Artist of the Year, 2003 for Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music and 2004 for Excellence in Film & Theatrical Score. She made her acting debut with a key role in One Night the Moon (2001) directed by Rachel Perkins and starring Paul Kelly. Both solo and with Roach, Hunter recorded and performed with many top Australian and international acts; to take but one example, in 2004 they collaborated with Paul Grabowsky’s Australian Art Orchestra on Ruby’s Story, which told her life story through song and spoken word. In 2005, Hunter was invited by Deborah Conway to take part in the Broad Festival project with Sara Storer, Katie Noonan and Clare Bowditch, performing their own and each other's songs. She and Roach won the Sydney Myer Performing Arts Award in 2009. Hunter worked tirelessly to support and encourage young Aboriginal people, running an open house for teenagers; she said that the achievement of which she was most proud was keeping her family – Roach, their two children and three foster children – together as a stable unit. She died of a heart attack at the age of 55.

Updated 2018