Roach, Archie

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Roach was one of the thousands of Aboriginal children stolen from their parents by the Australian government in an attempt to assimilate them into white society (see Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children). He and all but one of his siblings were stolen, split up and fostered and adopted. Roach had two failed placements after his indoctrination in an orphanage and then was placed aged nine with the Cox family (Scottish immigrants), where he learned music and grew up happy, although he was told untruths about his origins (his foster parents had been lied to by the authorities).

When he was contacted by an older sister and learned the truth about his origins he went off the rails, and spent the next 14 years living rough on the streets and nearly killing himself with drink. During this time he traced some other members of his family, most of whom were dead or homeless. But he kept his music and was eventually "discovered" in 1988.

His music is largely devoted to the problems of Aboriginal adoptees and he has worked with Joan Armitrading, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. He has won several Australian record industry awards. His albums include Charcoal Lane and Jamu Dreaming.

He is a foster father for Aboriginal children.


Davies, Nick. "All the Beautiful Children," Guardian Weekend [London], 25 May 1996, pp. 32-34
Monash Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Australia, general editors John Arnold and Deirdre Morris. (Port Melbourne: Reed Reference Publishing, 1994)
The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History, Society and Culture, David Horton, general editor. (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1994)
Coolwell, Wayne. My Kind of People: Achievement, Identity and Aboriginality. (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1993)
McCulloch, Ron, director & producer. Best Kept Secret: A Profile of Archie Roach. VHS color video, 30 mins. (Sydney: Aboriginal Broadcasting Unit, 1991)
Jackson, Leon. "Archie Roach." [Includes portraits]. Available at:


Australian Aboriginal
20th Century
21st Century
Music and Dance
Adoptees/fosterees Who Are/were Also Adopters or Foster Parents
Birth Identity Disputed or Deliberately Concealed
Ethnic or Religious Identity Confused or Concealed, Racism
Addiction or Abuse (drugs, Alcohol or Gambling)
Homelessness, Drifting
Formal, American/European-Type Fostering
Pre-school Years
Child Removed from Home by Social Services
Government Policy, Assimilation
Others ("Strangers")
Trans-Racial, Trans-Tribal, International or Trans-Cultural Adoption or Fostering
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
Institutional Care
Disrupted or Failed Placements
Birth Sibling(s) Remained With or Returned to Birth Family
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
Birth Family Traced Adoptee/Fosteree
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