Every time Archie Roach steps into prison, few men and women see him behind bars.
Roach, the 2020 Australian Victorian singer-songwriter, has a simple message for whomever he meets
As a young man, Roach struggled with alcoholism and spent time living on the streets – a period that also included periods in prison
His life escalated badly in the years after he discovered he was a member of the Stolen Generations and discovered the true story of his biological family’s history
In the past three decades, Roach has become a well-known musician, author, and passionate advocate of First Nations peoples
Through the foundation that bears his name, Roach and another Aboriginal elder, Uncle Jack Charles, made prison visits in the hope of inspiring young criminals to embrace their heritage and hopefully cut the corner in their lives
“They are separated from society, country and culture,” Roach says of the many Indigenous prisoners they encounter.
« I am talking about the status quo where people want you to be imprisoned. Don’t convince them to get involved in trouble and imprisonment. You don’t need to fall into this trap. »
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are overrepresented in prisons, and make up 28 per cent of the prison population.
Poor health outcomes and education levels are also some of the inequalities that the federal government hopes to improve by resetting its goals to bridge the gap
“We’re still talking about the things we were talking about 50 years ago, 20 years ago,” Roach says.
“It will take some time, and it will transform the way people think and see who we are and what we should do
“We need to work together on this. We carry a heavy burden, much of this baggage that does not belong to us, and we need another person to take some of this responsibility”
Thirty years after the release of his debut album Charcoal Lane, he teamed up with a « First Nations » tutorial from Culture Is Life to produce short videos that would play in the school’s classroom.
“It is important that we tell the full history of this country and be honest about it, because it is the only way in which we can move forward as a country and as a nation,” Roach said in one of the videos
Among the topics discussed, Roach talks about the experiences of stolen generations and how songwriting helped in the recovery process
“Every time I sing it, I let a little bit of it go,” Roach says of the pain he feels when he sings his most famous song, Took the Children Away
“I’ve been singing it for a long time I’m sure I’ll be singing it one day Everything will be gone, and I will be free. «
Thara Brown, writer on Culture Is Life, says Indigenous history has not been taught properly in schools.
“We need to talk about the true history of this country more, so I really hope that these resources, being in schools, will help shape and restructure the way teachers are doing,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne
« Adults sharing their stories from personal experience – I think it will be really touching in the classroom »
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Archie Roach, Culture, Indigenous Peoples, Get Rid of Children (30th Anniversary Edition), Indigenous Australians
World News – AU – “Don’t satisfy them with getting into trouble”: Archie Roach’s letter To young criminals
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