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Archie Roach AM’s deeply personal song, ‘Took the Children Away’, from his 1990 debut album, Charcoal Lane, was the first song ever to receive a prestigious Australian Human Rights Award. Its impact was immediate, shining a stark light on Australia’s shameful past practices of removing children from their families. The song also speaks of love and reconnection and has travelled across seas into the hearts of First Nations communities everywhere.
 
One dark day, when Archie was just two years old, big black government cars came to his home at Framlingham Aboriginal Mission in southwest Victoria. They forcibly took Archie away from his mother, father and family – everything he had ever known. They took away thousands of other Aboriginal children, right around Australia. Powerful people had decided that these children would be better off living and learning all the white man’s ways. Frightened and alone, they grew up in institutions and foster homes. They became known as the Stolen Generations.
 
Ruby Hunter was one of those children, too, only eight when she was taken from the loving arms of her grandmother living on the Coorong in South Australia.
 
Archie and Ruby met and fell in love as homeless teenagers and Archie started writing songs to help ease his pain. Archie’s songs, loved by fans worldwide, tell a powerful story of survival and renewal, and the healing power of music.
 
In this special 30th anniversary edition, Archie’s iconic lyrics sit alongside evocative illustrations by his beloved soulmate and musical collaborator, Ruby Hunter. Also included are Archie’s recollections of his family and rare historical photographs.
 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this book contains images of people who are deceased or who may now be deceased.
 

Photograph © Adrian Cook Photography

Archie Roach AM, a Gunditjmara and Bundjalung man, was born in Victoria in 1956. Taken at the age of two from parents he never saw again, he was placed into foster care. He started writing songs after meeting his soulmate Ruby Hunter when they were both homeless teenagers. His heartbreaking signature song, ‘Took the Children Away’, from his 1990 ARIA award-winning debut album Charcoal Lane, has become an anthem for the Stolen Generations. The song was the first to win an Australian Human Rights Award and the album was featured in US Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 in 1992, won two ARIA awards and went gold in Australia. Archie’s recording history includes twelve albums, soundtracks, film and theatrical scores and his books include the award-winning memoir Tell Me Why, accompanied by a companion album, and the picture book Took the Children Away, illustrated by Ruby Hunter.

Photograph by James Penlidis.

Ruby Hunter (1955-2010) was a proud Ngarrindjeri, Kukatha, Pitjantjatjara woman from South Australia. She forged a remarkable music career, releasing three highly acclaimed albums, while raising a family with her lifelong partner and soulmate, Archie Roach. Through her songwriting Ruby tirelessly championed the rights of Aboriginal women and children out of a deep desire for positive change and equal opportunity. Like Archie, Ruby was forcibly removed from her family when only a small child. Ruby expressed their shared story through her evocative drawings for Took the Children Away, their last collaborative project.

More books from this author: Archie Roach