Posted by: nancycurteman | June 3, 2010

Ruby Hunter Revealed her Soul in her Music

Australia’s award winning indigenous singer Ruby Hunter is best known for her performances with her partner Archie Roach and for their membership in the musical collective known as the Black Arm Band. A member of the stolen generations she shared her struggles with the world through her music. She sang of her life in a deep, gravelly voice that touched the souls of her audiences. In “Held up To the Moon In My Grandfather’s Hands” Ruby tells of her premature birth by a billabong in the land of  Ngarrindjeri in the Riverland region of South Australia.

Held up To the Moon In My Grandfather’s Hands
In 56 when the floods come down
No-one could get in, no-one could get round
Born at a billabong, my father’s homeland
Held up to the moon in my grandfather’s hands (x2)
I was born premature and they kept me warm
They looked at the fire, grey ashes on the ground
Saw a baby in warm ashes being rubbed down
Like a little rabbit being cooked in the ground (x2)
It’s close to the river billabong you see
You cannot use water to wash a newborn down
Grey ashes from the fire, best baby powder round
Held up to the moon in my grandfather’s hands (x2)

In “Daisy Chains, String Games and Knuckle Bones,” Ruby reminisces about her childhood happiness in the safe bosom of a loving extended family in her homeland.

Daisy chains, String Games and Knuckle Bones.
Daisy chains, Strings Games and Knuckle Bones
Before we were taken from our Kurongk home
I remember when I was young
Me and my sister were having fun
Making daisy chains, short and long
Daisy chains, Strings Games and Knuckle Bones
Before we were taken from our Kurongk home

Ruby says the sorrow began one night when at the tender age of eight she was torn from her extended family. “Nopun Kurongk” and “Took the Children Away” tell the sad story of how her grandmother and father tried to save her to no avail.

Nopun Kurongk (Go to the River)

My grandmother I can see Wrapped around her thatki (legs)
Standing safely on the shore Underneath the dress she wore
We were hidden secretly from the welfare ‘cos you see
Granny knew they’d taken children Many times before
Nopun kurongk, Nukun kurongk

Took the Children Away
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
Said to us come take our hand
Set us up on mission land
They taught us to read, to write and pray
Then they took the children away Took the children away
The children away
Snatched from their mother’s breast
Said this is for the best
Took them away
The welfare man, the policeman
Said you’ve got to understand
Cos’ we’ll give to them what you can’t give
And teach them how to really live
Teach them how to live they said
Humiliated them instead…
One dark day on Framlingham
Came and did not give a damn
My mother cried go get their dad
He came running, fighting mad
Mother’s tears were falling down
And my Dad shaped up and stood his ground.
He said you touch my kids and you gotta fight me boys
Then they took us from our family.
Took us away Yeah took us away
Grabbed from our mother’s breast

Ruby reveals her life as a child of the streets in “Down City Streets.”

Down City Streets
Crawled out of bushes early morn
Used newspapers to keep me warm
Then I’d have to score a drink
Calm my nerves, help me to think
Down city streets I would roam I had no bed, I had no home
And there was nothing that I owned
Used my fingers as a comb
In those days when I was young Drinking and fighting was no fun
It was daily living for me I had no choice
It was meant to be

Ruby even used her music to express her philosophy and indigenous pride. “Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow” and “Ngarrindjeri Woman,” reveal her inner self.

Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow
Life is like, like a river You only reap what you sow
I hope it’s good what you give her In return for what you grow
I’m going down, down the river today
I’m jumping in the water Wash my sins away

Ngarrindjeri Woman
I am Ngarrindjeri Woman
And I’m proud of who I am
Ngarrindjeri Woman native to this traditional land

What a wonderful legacy Ruby Hunter left to her country and the world.

Song Lyrics from Ruby’s Story Lyrics By Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach © 2003 / 2004
Photo: bellaunion


  1. Nice post, Nancy! Informative.


  2. You always find such fascinating stories to share.



  3. […] post:  Ruby Hunter Revealed Her Soul In Her Music (Global Mysteries) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Create Space For What MattersP 1.2.4: […]


  4. This is the tribute slide show that was played at Rubys funeral. Her husband Archie is singing his song to her….the slide show was put together by their grandson Wesley.

    A Goddess has left us….


  5. touching stuff.


  6. Far too often the government got blamed for the Stolen Generation when the real culprits was the Christian churches and their institutions.


    • Jim,
      I’m sure Christian churches played a roll in creating the Stolen Generation.


      • The government policies in place at the time defined Aborigines as “non people” and this was the case until the 1967 referendum where citizenship was granted. Until then Aborigines were counted under the flaura and fauna act & were excluded form the citizens rights of European Australians.

        The government created the policies that enabled the church to enact mass kidnappings of Aboriginal babies and children. My friend is one of the Stolen Generation & all of her files were held in government departments.
        Governments and churches were in partnership in the enactment of such widespread child abuse and denial of human rights.

        Weighing up the grains of pain to see whether it came from churches of governments does not alter the reality that racism and child theft defines Australia’s history and the intergenerational trauma of Aboriginal families and whole Communities being torn apart by white strangers carrying government sanctioned removal documents still reverberates across Australia today.


  7. Carolom, Thank you so much for shedding additional light on the Stolen Generation. We had an analogous situation here with our Native American children. Some Christian churches took Native American children into their homes to live. The sad thing was that these children were deprived of their own culture and the nurturing of their own parents. I’m not sure of the purpose or the outcome of this movement.


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