NAIDOC Family Day celebrations at Southern Cross University were taken to another level with a stellar performance from indigenous musician, Archie Roach.
The ARIA awardwinning singer/songwriter performed songs from his newest album, Into the Bloodstream, as well as songs from across his previous four albums.
“It’s kind of taking us back on a journey from where it all began,” said Roach’s manager, Jill Shelton.
Since receiving several ARIA awards for his previous albums, Charcoal Lane and Looking for Butter Boy, Roach has continued to rise into the upper echelon of Australian music.
Shelton said that the performance at Lismore, held in late July, was the second of three performances across the SCU campuses for NAIDOC. It was due to the influence of Roach’s niece, Kyra Kum-Sing, that these performances were organised.
“This whole run of gigs came about because of Kyra putting in a call to me,” Shelton said.
“He was overdue to come up here I reckon,” Kum-Sing said. “Let the Northern Rivers community hear his music.”
Since Roach is a local to the area and a proud Bunjalung man, Kum-Sing thought it was really important for him to perform at the family day.
“You hear [his signature song,] Took the Children Away and it’s like an anthem for all indigenous people about the stolen generation,” she said.
The crowds that gathered to be part of the family day celebrations were a mixture of both indigenous and non-indigenous families.
Chair of the Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordination Committee (SCUIECC), Vivienne Roberts, said that the community could easily relate to Roach’s stories.
“His songs are about his people, his culture. So they’ve got a lot of meaning,” she said.
Roach’s contribution to indigenous culture has been recognised this year with the inclusion of two portraits in the 2014 Archibald Prize. Roach described the portraits done by artists Robert Henderson and Jandamarra Cadd as “amazing”.
“Both [portraits] are unique and they have no pretentiousness about them,” he said.
After his set, and an encore song, Roach was swamped with fans asking for autographs and photos with the indigenous icon.
Roach explained how important it is to celebrate NAIDOC week and said he enjoyed performing at the family day in Lismore.
“It’s a week where we can celebrate our culture,” he said. “It’s good to have the company of a family community, you just feel the love, its beautiful.”
Along with the three Southern Cross University campus performances, Roach also did shows in Cairns, Townsville and at a juvenile justice centre in Melbourne.