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Cartoonist Mark Knight pays tribute to Archie Roach, voice of stolen generation

Mark Knight, August 4, 2022 6:00PM Kids News

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Cartoonist Mark Knight pays tribute to singer and songwriter Archie Roach who died on Saturday as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese put an Indigenous Voice to Parliament on the agenda. media_cameraCartoonist Mark Knight pays tribute to singer and songwriter Archie Roach who died on Saturday as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese put an Indigenous Voice to Parliament on the agenda.

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There are some songs that seem to capture things about this country so well they should be our national anthem.

Some believe Waltzing Matilda, a song about a vagrant* sheep rustler*, would be better than what we have now; while others would love to see quintessential* Aussie pop songs like Khe Sanh by Cold Chisel, Great Southern Land by Icehouse or Down Under by Men at Work become our national tune.

Imagine Ariarne Titmus standing on the winner’s podium at the Commonwealth Games with her gold medal, all teared up with emotion to the sounds of Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes. What a moment that would be!

media_cameraArchie Roach performs at the WOMADelaide festival in 2021. Picture: Rob Sferco

This week we lost a fella who wrote a famous song about one of this country’s more tragic chapters. But such was his skill as a storyteller and craftsmanship as a musician, the song about the government taking Indigenous children from their parents has a potent, lingering beauty about it.

Archie Roach’s “Took the children away” is not an angry song; it paints a powerful picture of the damage done by the forced separation of Indigenous families. A hurt that included him and his own parents.

A Gunditjmara and Bunjalung man, singer/songwriter, storyteller, tribal elder, Archie Roach passed away this week from a long illness, aged 66.

He was an ambassador* for his people and the loss was felt far and wide. Australian singer Paul Kelly described his passing as “a big tree down”.

Australian singer-songwriters Archie Roach (left) and Paul Kelly at the The Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool, for Roach's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame on November 25 2020. Picture: Justin Williams media_cameraAustralian singer-songwriters Archie Roach (left) and Paul Kelly at the The Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool, for Roach’s induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame on November 25 2020. Picture: Justin Williams

When we lose someone like Archie Roach, I am compelled* in my cartoons to pay tribute to their contribution to our lives, to note the difference they have made. This was one of those occasions.

I felt the cartoon had to have that simple elegance that Archie Roach’s songs had, and the cartoon had to have a connection to the land. Also in Aboriginal culture, it is not permitted to talk about someone who has recently died or mention their name. However, being such a large figure in the First Nations community, Archie Roach’s family gave permission for the media to talk about him.

Australian singer-songwriter Archie Roach, pictured at his home in Killarney, southwest Victoria, in early December 2021. A career-spanning anthology album, 'My Songs: 1989-2021', is released on March 11 2022 via Bloodlines. Picture:  Lani Louise media_cameraAustralian singer-songwriter Archie Roach pictured at his home in Killarney, southwest Victoria, in early December 2021. Picture: Lani Louise

I started with a simple sketch of the man, then I thought he had to have his guitar with him. The setting is in the bush, with the subject sitting on a big old ghost gum tree. To show his transition back to the land, the reader can see his figure is translucent*, we can see trees and the grassy plain through him.

As I drew this I realised another poignant* fact. That very day Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was in the Northern Territory at the Garma Festival to announce plans to create a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Issues affecting our First Nations people would be able to be directly raised in federal parliament and be acted upon.

The coincidence hit me that on the very day a voice for Indigenous people was being considered, they lost one of their most profound* voices, Archie Roach.

I added the Prime Minister into the background of the cartoon and the caption records the irony* of the moment.

A national referendum will decide if a First Nations Voice to Parliament goes ahead. We know that Archie Roach’s words and songs will live on for generations.

GLOSSARY

  • vagrant: a person without a home or job who moves from place to place
  • rustler: a person who rounds up and steals cattle, horses or sheep
  • quintessential: the most typical or perfect example of something
  • ambassador: person who speaks on behalf of an organisation, community or country
  • compelled: doing something because you are forced to or feel it is necessary
  • translucent: allowing some light to pass through
  • poignant: something that has a strong effect on emotions or the senses
  • profound: having or showing great knowledge or insight
  • irony: odd because it involves a contrast between two things, in this case the death of an important Indigenous voice and at the same time the promotion of a First Nations Voice to Parliament

EXTRA READING

PM paves way for Voice to Parliament vote

Acting legend at one with the land

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What was the name of Archie Roach’s song about Indigenous children being forcibly removed from their families?
  2. How old was Archie Roach when he died?
  3. How has Mark Knight illustrated Archie Roach’s transition back to the land?
  4. What festival with the Prime Minister attending when Archie Roach died?
  5. What did the Prime Minister announce at this festival?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Thought bubbles
Read Mark’s explanation of what the cartoon means again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write some thought bubbles or quotes from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that will make Mark’s meaning clearer for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Look through the most recent stories on Kids News and choose one to draw a cartoon about.

Use Mark’s three-step process to get started:

  • What is my subject?
  • What do I want to say about this issue?
  • How do I say it? Do I use visual metaphors (an image that the viewer is meant to understand as a symbol for something else), multiple panels or symbolism (when one idea, feeling or emotion is represented by something else such as a: picture, character, colour or object)?

Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Describe it
Look at the cartoon and make a list of five nouns that you see. Then describe those five nouns with five adjectives.

Add a preposition to those five nouns and adjectives.

Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.

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