Ruby's Story

ruby Image credit: James Knowler

Music and Lyrics: Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter
Arrangements and Additional Music: Paul Grabowsky
Musical Direction: Paul Grabowsky
Premiere: Sydney Opera House, June 2004, Message Sticks Festival
Winner of the 2004 Deadly for ‘Excellence in Film & Theatrical Score’


Kura Tungar (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
A Child is Born (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Held Up to the Moon in My Grandfather’s Hands (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Coolamen Baby (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Nopin Kurongk: Go to the River (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Daisy Chains, String Games and Knuckle Bones (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Took the Children Away (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Down City Streets (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Old So and So (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Little by Little (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow (Archie Roach, arr. Paul Grabowsky)
Ngarrindjeri Woman (Ruby Hunter, arr. Paul Grabowsky)

Recording History

2005Ruby, AAO recordings

Purchase the 2005 recording here


Program Notes

Together and separately, Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach have forged careers that cross musical boundaries. In this powerful collaboration, Ruby and Archie join forces with members of the Australian Art Orchestra to perform songs they have written about their experiences as members of the Stolen Generation. The songs recount Ruby’s birth by the side of a billabong near the banks of the Murray River in South Australia and chart her search for identity, the discovery of hope through love, and Ruby and Archie’s return to the river to build a new life and a new home to mend the wounds of the past. Through lyrical and poignant songs, Ruby’s Story_ is a tale about the abuse of power and the power of love; about facing up to past wrongs; and our shared responsibility to battle for the survival of our environment and the great river systems upon which all of our lives depend.

Paul Grabowsky’s arrangements, which have been hailed as his best work yet, take their lead form the country music and gospel traditions that have inspired them and from his own jazz and classical influences.

Watch excerpts from performances of Ruby’s Story

Download the lyrics by Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter from the 2005 recording here

Tour History

2004 – Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, Message Sticks Festival
2004 – Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Cabaret Festival
2005 – Festival de Mexico Centro Historico, Mexico
2005 – Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland Music Festival and the Northern Territory tour: Cherbourg, Lismore, Darwin, Ngukurr, Alice Springs
2005 – The Famous Spiegeltent, Melbourne International Arts Festival
2006 – Playhouse, Sydney Opera House (7 shows)
2006 – Water Water festival, Sale, Victoria
2007 – Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, Auckland International Festival, New Zealand
2007 – The Dreaming Festival (3 shows), Woodford, Queensland
2008 – Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center, Malaysia
2009 – Wagga Civic Centre, Wagga


Phillip Slater / [Scott Tinkler] ( Trumpet
James Greening / Adrian Sherriff Trombone
Paul Cutlan /Tony Hicks Reeds
Sandy Evans Reeds
John Rodgers / Erkki Veltheim Violin
Carl Dewhurst / Stephen Magnusson Guitar
Paul Grabowsky / Alister Spence Keyboards
Philip Rex / Steve Elphick Double Bass
Simon Barker / Niko Schauble Drums
Vanessa Tomlinson / Alex Pertout Percussion

Ruby Hunter passed away at her home in south west Victoria on the 17th of February. AAO members and musicians paid tribute to Ruby here

Collaborators: Ruby Hunter, Singer/songwriter
Archie Roach, Singer/songwriter
Duration: 1hr 30min
Interval : No

Press for Ruby's Story

Music That Goes Right Into my Bones

Sydney Morning Herald, SIMA website  (John Clare)  15 April 2006

The Ebb and Flow - Songs from the River of Life

The Sydney Morning Herald  (Daniel Ziffer)  14 March 2006

Ruby's New Ground

The Koorie Mail    15 March 2006

Swirling Sea of Sonic Passion

Beat Magazine  (David Dawson)  8 March 2006

A Unique Collaboration has Created an Authentic Form of Australian Blues and Jazz

Limelight  (Fred Pawle)  April 2006

Daughter of the River

The Australian  (Iain Shedden)  1 June 2004

What an Amazing, Memorable Night Out!   (Kezia George)  10 June 2004

She's the Centre of Attention in Some Very Fine Company

The Advertiser  (Louise Nunn)  12 June 2004

The Success of the Fusion

dBmagazine Adelaide Issue 332   (David Grybowski)  June 2004

Magical River Music

Real Time  (Keith Gallasch)  June 2004

Joyous Celebration

The Star  (Ricky Lai)  March 2008

Everything About the Show was Just Right  (Martin Vengadesan)  March 2008