The title and words in this book are a song written by well-known singer/songwriter Archie Roach. As an Aboriginal child, he was taken from his parents and placed with foster parents when he was four years old. He was inspired to write the song, ‘Took the Children Away’, after talking with his Uncle Banjo Clarke, who was also taken from his parents. Roach dedicated this song to ‘the children who were taken and the loved ones we were taken from’. The song was released in September 1990.
The song touched many who heard it, and subsequently this book for children was published with Archie’s words, illustrations by his wife, Ruby Hunter, and two landscape paintings by Queensland artist, Peter Hudson. These landscapes featured South West Victoria, Archie's traditional lands. These are in sharp contrast to Ruby Hunter’s artwork in the remainder of the book, which reflects the harsh daily lives of Aboriginal children. The distinctly different landscapes reflect a time when the children, as grownups, return to their home country and family.
‘Took the Children Away’ is based on the now discarded Australian government policy to remove Indigenous children from their parents. The history and consequences of this policy is told in the inquiry by the Australian Government, ‘Bringing Them Home: The ‘Stolen Children’ Report (1997). Archie Roach’s song 'struck a chord' with people nationally. It was awarded two ARIA Awards, as well as an international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time such an award had been given to a songwriter because of a song. The album in which it was included featured in Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 100 Albums for 1992.
The resources included for this book must be considered by an adult before use with young people. Archie Roach is a Gunditjmara and Bundjalung man born in Mooroopna, Victoria. His name means a deep bend in the [Goulburn] river. He lived at Framlingham Mission after being removed from his parents. Ruby Charlotte Margaret Hunter (31 October 1955 – 17 February 2010) was an Aboriginal Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist. She was a Ngarrindjeri woman, who often performed with her partner, Archie Roach AM.
Simon & Schuster published a new edition of this book in 2020. It contains new material including photographs of Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter. The format of the book is larger and both page design and layout have been enhanced. This new edition is preferred for use with young people.