Took the Children Away

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Archie Roach (text) and Ruby Hunter (illustrator), Took the Children Away, Simon & Schuster, October 2020, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760857219

This story’s right this story’s true
I would not tell lies to you
Like the promises they did not keep
And how they fenced us in like sheep

So begins Archie Roach’s iconic lyrics from his deeply personal song Took the Children Away in this special and powerful 30th anniversary edition picture book about the Stolen Generations, the injustices that they suffered and survived, and the reconnection and hope that prevailed.

The lyrics from the award-winning song, Took the Children Away, the first song to ever receive the Australian Human Rights Award, tell the story of when Archie Roach was forcibly removed from his family at the age of two as part of the Stolen Generation, as well as portraying many other heart wrenching stories of First Nations children taken in Australia.  It is also a song of hope about how Archie came home to heal when ‘one sweet day all the children came back… Back where their hearts grow strong…back where they all belong.’

Archie’s lyrical and intensely poetic words are teamed with evocative and thought-provoking illustrations by his soulmate and musical collaborator, the late Ruby Hunter. Ruby’s illustrations are powerful in their simplicity. A palette of indigenous colours and the striking, bold outlines on the child and parent figures within the story heartbreakingly depict the horror of a generation of stolen children.  

This hardback special edition also includes Archie’s own recollections including his Uncle Banjo’s story of the day that Archie was taken which formed the basis of the song, rare historical photographs of Archie and his family, along with a painting of Ruby’s dreaming spirit, a pelican in flight.

Took the Children Away is a must-have picture book and educational resource for children aged five and up that will leave its mark in today’s classrooms and libraries and for future generations long after its pages are closed. 

To honour the 30th anniversary edition of this important song, The Archie Roach Foundation in collaboration with Culture is Life and ABC, have also created additional educational resources on the stolen generation for primary and high school aged children. You can find The Archie Roach Stolen Generations Resources here.

Reviewed by Lana Spasevski

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