Australian music icon Archie Roach, a pioneering Indigenous artist who brought global attention to the Stolen Generations, has died aged 66.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung Senior Elder, singer and storyteller Archie Roach,” the singer and songwriter’s family said in a statement.
“Archie has passed away, surrounded by his family and loved ones, at Warrnambool Base Hospital after a long illness. We thank all the staff who have cared for Archie over the past month.
“Archie wanted all of his many fans to know how much he loves you for supporting him along the way.
“We are so proud of all that our father has accomplished in his remarkable life. He was a healer and a unifying force. His music brings people together.
His family allowed the media to use his name and likeness. There will be a private memorial ceremony.
Roach suffered a strong in 2010 and also battled lung cancer. That didn’t stop him from continuing to perform, and in recent years he’s taken the stage with oxygen.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was among many Australians paying their respects to Roach following news of his death on Saturday night.
“Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth-teller,” Mr. Albanese said.
“Archie’s music tapped into a well of trauma and pain, but it flowed with a beauty and resonance that moved us all.
“We mourn his death, we honor his life, and we remain hopeful that his words, music, and indomitable spirit will live on to guide and inspire us.”
Australian singer Amy Shark said she coincidentally listened to Roach’s album Dreaming of Jamu “from start to finish” early Saturday.
“(We were) discussing the heartbreaking beauty of the song Enter the doors is. I was so lucky to have played with this legend. I am so sad to hear of his passing now,” Shark said.
Victoria’s Assembly of First Peoples said there were “no adequate words” to sum up Roach’s loss to “the community, the nation or even the world”.
“Our sincere condolences to Roach’s family and friends. Rest in power, uncle, we’ll see you in the Dreamtime.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said Roach’s death was “a terrible loss to Australian cultural life”.
“Archie Roach was one of our greatest storytellers and his words touched us deeply,” he said.
“My deepest condolences to Mr. Roach’s family and to all who knew and loved him.”
And Linda Burney, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, called Roach a “pioneering musician” and survivor of the Stolen Generations.
“Your songs will live forever. Thank you Archie for everything you gave us,” she said.