Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.
One of Australia’s most adored performers, Uncle Archie Roach AM has won a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, winning the Prize for Indigenous Writing for his memoir Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music.
In its 36th year, the Awards were announced online on Monday night by Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson.
“The response has been great for both the biography and the album, it’s great to have been recognised, especially when it’s the first time you’ve sat down and written something,” Roach said.
“Writing the memoir was a little different to songwriting, I guess because without a melody you don’t have much to lighten the topic or to buffer the impact of some of the stories in the book, but it was an interesting process.
“Storytelling is important to me, not just to express myself, but to share that with others as well.”
“I think it’s a part of who I am, and it’s a big part of culture, storytellers come from all walks of life.”
While his story is well-known, Roach’s memoir goes into detail of the suffering he felt when his wife Ruby Hunter passed away in 2010. The couple had met when they were both teenagers; homeless and living on the streets of Adelaide.
Like Roach, Hunter was a member of the Stolen Generations, taken from her family at just eight-years-old.
Tell Me Why also touches on Roach’s experience as a member of the Stolen Generations.
Born in 1956 on Framlingham Mission, near Warrnambool in southwest Victoria, he was forcibly removed from his family at the age of two under the Australian Government’s assimilation policy.
Thirty years after the release of his award-winning debut album Charcoal Lane, Roach released his memoir Tell Me Why along with an album of the same name in 2020.
The literary award win follows a run of accolades, including his induction into the 2020 ARIA Hall of Fame and winning 2020 Victorian Australian of the Year.
At 63-years-old, Uncle Archie shows no signs of slowing down.
Although his final national tour Tell Me Why was postponed due to COVID-19, Roach said that hasn’t stopped him from creating and connecting with his audience.
“The album was going to be followed up by a national tour, but unfortunately COVID stopped that going ahead,” he said.
“We’ve still been able to work, we were able to use YouTube to perform, and younger people have responded to my songs.
“We just had to find a different way of doing things.”
Roach said he is looking forward to reconnecting with an audience at his upcoming show on February 19 at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
“It’ll be good to get back out there again and see an audience again.”
By Darby Ingram