ARIA Awards pay tribute to Archie Roach with Jessica Mauboy, Thelma Plum and Budjerah performance

The trio performed Roach's song 'One Love', which won the ARIA Award for Best Independent Release

Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander readers are advised that this story contains the name and image of a person who has died. 

Jessica Mauboy, Thelma Plum, and Budjerah performed a tribute to Archie Roach during this year’s ARIA Awards.

The tribute began with archival snippets of Roach performing ‘Took The Children Away’, before Midnight Oil‘s Peter Garrett and Briggs introduced the proceedings. Garrett recalled Roach’s work both in and out of the studio, praising his activist efforts and mentioning his OAM accolade. Garrett said “Uncle Roach’s life is a mighty exemplar for Aboriginal people, and an inspiration to us all.”

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For his part, Briggs described Roach as a “giant” and “born storyteller”. Briggs remembered his last conversation with the musician, who reminded him to “be strong in what you do”. He continued: “I love you Unc, we all do. Thank you for everything”.

Budjerah and Plum – who were each nominated for Best Solo artist and Best Australian Live Act, among other nods – began the performance of Roach’s track ‘One Song’. Budjerah, who took home the trophy for Best Soul/R&B Release, sung the second verse of the track, which was released in February of this year, just five months before the Gunditjmara and Bundjalung elder and singer passed away in July.

Mauboy later joined the pair towards the end of the song, with all three harmonising the final verse as an image of Roach appeared behind them. The tribute received a standing ovation from audience members, before Becca Hatch and Troy Cassar-Daley led a note of remembrance for Roach’s friend, the late Uncle Jack Charles.

Immediately after the tribute, ‘One Song’ won the ARIA Award for Best Independent release, beating out the likes of Ball Park Music, Courtney Barnett and Genesis Owusu. Speaking of Roach when accepting the award on his behalf, Roach’s granddaughter Janaya said she was “beyond proud of him, words can not describe how I’m feeling.”

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“I wish he was here with us… but I know he’ll be here with us in spirit… I’m so proud of you Pop and I hope you’re having a good old jam up there with Nanny and the Dreamtime.” Janaya was joined during the acceptance speech by Emma Donovan.

Roach was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2020, the same year he took home the awards for Best Adult Contemporary and Best Male for his album ‘Tell Me Why’. Those accolades arrived on the 30 year anniversary of ‘Charcoal Lane’, Roach’s debut album released in 1990. Roach received three nominations for that album the ARIA Awards the following year, winning two for Best New Talent and Best Indigenous Release.

The record featured the single ‘Took The Children Away’, which Roach performed during the 2020 ceremony. The following year, Roach – who was ill at the time – revealed he was taken to the awards show in an ambulance.

The tribute set was one of three held throughout the ceremony, with late musicians and fellow ARIA Hall of Fame inductees Olivia Newton-John and The Seekers’ Judith Durham also commemorated following their deaths earlier this year.

Newtown-John’s tribute was directed by Song Of The Year winner Tones and I, and also enlisted Kye, Peking Duk and ARIA co-host Natalie Imbruglia. The group performed Newton-John’s ’Xanadu’, the Grease track ‘You’re The One That I Want’, and ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’, the last of which re-entered the ARIA Top 5 earlier this year.

Casey Donovan and Dami Im, meanwhile, led two solo performances of The Seekers tracks ‘The Carnival Is Over’ and ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ in remembrance of the frontwoman’s passing in August.

The tributes took place in lieu of the ceremony’s usual ARIA Hall Of Fame induction segment, which is missing from the program for the second consecutive year. Organisers said the absence of the segment was “to pay due respect and properly celebrate” the late Hall Of Famers aforementioned, and that the inductee proceedings “will return in 2023”.

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