Thank you very much Mr Speaker.
I join with the Prime Minister in honouring the life of Australian, Archie Roach AM.
Forcibly removed from his family at the age of two, raised in foster homes, learning of the death of his biological mother and father via letter, living rough on the streets, battling alcoholism and doing prison time – Archie Roach had every right to be resentful and vindictive given the hardships of his early life.
Yet in his autobiography he wrote and I quote: “People ask me if I ever get sick of singing my song, ‘Took the Children Away’. I tell them it’s my healing song. Through songs, I have been able to deal with the pain and trauma in a positive way.”
Through music, Archie was able to forgive and to heal. Indeed, ‘Took the Children Away’ did the same for many of the stolen generations. And it helped a nation to come to terms with the actions of its forebears.
Archie wrote: “I believe in redemption and I believe in forgiveness, both important aspects of love, because I’ve… experienced both.”
It was the love of his foster family, the Coxes, which inspired his love of music. And if music helped Archie to forgive, then it was Ruby Hunter who brought about his redemption. Both children of the stolen generations and sharing a love for music, their partnership was the catalyst for changing fortune.
Archie found his voice and audience in music; he found his rhythm and calling in life. A life which would take him from opening for Paul Kelly and The Messengers in 1989, to releasing a career-spanning anthology in March this year. A life which would see his talent recognised as the recipient of ARIAs, Deadly Awards, and National Indigenous Music Awards. And a life which would see his service to our country acknowledged by his being made a Member of the Order of Australia.
It speaks volumes that a man who suffered and voiced the trauma of the stolen generations was able to write: “live a good life; be the best person you can be and always let love be your guide.”
Australians will continue to be inspired by the lyrics and legacy of Archie Roach.
On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences to all of Archie’s colleagues and friends.
And to the entire Roach family, especially Amos and Eban – Archie’s sons – and Kriss, Arthur and Terrence – Archie’s foster children.
May he rest in peace.