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Motion: Mr Archie Roach

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:02): I move:

That this council expresses its sincere regret at the death of singer songwriter Archie Roach and notes his profound contribution to our cultural and community life.

Archie Roach is best known as a singer songwriter, but he was a proud Maar nation and Bundjalung man who will be mourned for a long time for his contribution to our cultural and community life. It is a very sad moment for the community, but I do believe that the legacy of Archie Roach and his legend will live on far beyond his life.

When Archie Roach first performed his breakout song You Took the Children Away, he was a support act for Paul Kelly and it was the year 1989. He thought he had tanked. He finished the song and the crowd stayed silent. Thinking he had missed his chance, he turned to leave the stage and, as he did, the crowd began to applaud and the applause just kept coming. Paul Kelly at the time described it as like nothing he had ever seen before, just an incredible reaction. The silence of the crowd was because they needed time to process what they had just heard and, once they did, history had been made. Roach's words were raw and his rendition was gentle, but the effect was incredibly powerful.

Archie Roach's poignant words draw attention to the history of Indigenous Australia. Uncle Archie was stolen at the age of four. He and his Scottish foster family were told that his parents had died in a fire. When Archie was 15 years old, he received a letter from a sister he did not even know he had. That letter told him that his birth mother had just died and that his parents had not died in a fire, as he had grown up believing. Like others who had their identity and culture stolen from them, this news was a catalyst for Archie. He left his foster family, and over the following decades he experienced periods of homelessness and alcoholism.

It was during this time that Archie met the love of his life, Ruby Hunter. While they were both living on the streets of Adelaide—and I certainly remember them busking on the streets of Adelaide—they formed a bond that would last 35 years, the rest of Ruby's life. Ruby was a proud Ngarrindjeri-Erawirung woman. She was born in 1955 near the banks of the Murray River. When she was eight years old, government authorities came and told her grandmother, who was caring for her, that they were taking the children to the circus. Ruby was stolen, separated from her sisters and brothers and taken into the Seaforth Children's Home.

At the age of 16 years she left, and, with no family and nowhere to go, she ended up on the streets of Adelaide. It was here that Ruby and Archie met, homeless on the streets of Adelaide. It was Archie who inspired Ruby to learn to play the guitar and to write her own music. Ruby was the first Aboriginal woman to sign a major recording deal, and she created her debut album, Thoughts Within, as a result. Her second album, Feeling Good, earned her the best female performer of the year award at the 2000 Deadly Awards.

Ruby has been remembered as a nurturing soul who, through her music, campaigned for the rights of Aboriginal women and children; indeed, this support extended far beyond her songwriting. Indeed, she and Archie over the years supported, fostered and provided a home to more than 30 Aboriginal children in the Riverland, without any government support. Ruby and Archie's dedication to helping those young people in the Riverland has not been forgotten and will not be forgotten. Indeed, there are memorials that were unveiled on the Barmera lakefront in honour of this.

Back in 1989, when Paul Kelly asked Archie Roach to support his show, Archie had actually said no. I was struck by an interview with Ruby Hunter at the time, in which he said to Ruby that he just wanted to play music to his community and not be some big music star. She was sitting with him at the table, and she looked him in the eye and said, 'It's not always about you, Archie Roach.' It was not just about Archie Roach; it was about his music and his words and the way they resonated with those who shared similar stories and who felt that finally their lives were reflected and recognised—they moved so many of us.

Both of these artists have a legacy of putting other people first. They put their community first. They used their artistic success to foster generations of others. Archie and Ruby both found support and strength in each other, and through this they created a body of cultural work that will endure and a community that will be forever grateful. Ruby encouraged Archie to translate his experience of despair and homelessness into music that resonated not just across our nation but across the world. Ruby and Archie supported their community and opened their homes to those who needed them.

I think there could be no better tribute than the South Australian parliament recognising the cultural and community contribution that Archie Roach and, of course, Ruby Hunter have made. With that, I commend the motion.

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