Skip to main content

Archie Roach
, 1992 (printed 2010)

by Bill McAuley

type C photograph (sheet: 49.0 x 36.0 cm, image: 41.0 x 28.0 cm)

Archie Roach AM (b. 1956), singer/songwriter, lived at Framlingham Mission before being removed from his parents at the age of four. At eleven he asked the couple he believed to be his parents why he was black and they were white; they told him his birth parents had died. His foster sister introduced him to the guitar and keyboards, and he began to play country music songs. At the age of fifteen, he was contacted by his natural sister, who told him their birth mother had just died. Bitterly, he spent the next fourteen years on the streets, battling alcoholism. He met his lifelong partner, the late Ruby Hunter, when she was sixteen. Having had children with her, and having beaten his alcohol dependency, he wrote his first song, 'Took the Children Away', which he performed on Melbourne radio and television in 1988. Spotted by one of Paul Kelly's bandmembers, he was invited to open a Paul Kelly concert in early 1989. Kelly produced Roach's first album, Charcoal Lane (1990), which was on the US Rolling Stone's Top 50 albums for 1992, achieved gold sales in Australia, and earned Roach two ARIAs and a human rights award. Both solo and with his beloved Hunter, Roach has recorded and performed with many top Australian and international acts, and despite losing her in 2010, he has continued to perform, tour, and mentor young Indigenous people, helping them overcome the difficulties he faced.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010
Accession number: 2010.90