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2021 - Shortlisted
Archibald William Roach was born at Mooroopna, near Shepparton, and at age two, when too young to remember the events, he was taken from his parents and put into foster care. After an abusive placement he found a happier home with an immigrant couple in Melbourne, where his foster father, Alex Cox, introduced him to traditional Scottish ballads, guitar and keyboards. At 15 he received a letter revealing the death of his natural mother, a disruption that led him to spend the next 14 years living rough and battling alcoholism. From this troubled time Archie Roach drew the material that would make him famous as a singer, songwriter, musician, and campaigner for Indigenous rights.
With the words of his own emblematic songs prefacing each chapter, Roach’s early memories are skilfully interwoven with research into the events that led to his childhood separation and eventual rediscovery of siblings and homeland. This lively, strong and authentic account of an ascending musical career does not shy away from the realities of being an Aboriginal man and a musician in modern Australia. Roach’s quiet dignity and generosity of spirit shine through on every page.