Archie’s story behind his 2007 album, JOURNEY and the companion DVD, Liyarn Ngarn.
“I think it was in 2005 that I was sitting at my brother-in-law’s place in Adelaide waiting for my friend Bill Johnson and others to arrive from Western Australia. Bill had contacted me earlier that year to talk about an idea he had for doing a film about the life and tragic death of his adopted Aboriginal son, Louis. When Bill arrived with two other gentlemen I greeted him warmly introducing him to my brothers-in-law, Wally and Jeff, as he in turn introduced us to his companions, Steve and Pete.
It was the bloke called Pete who we took particular notice of. There was something oddly familiar about his face, a face full of character. As I shook his hand I could not take my eyes off that face. Where have I seen that face before I thought? Only it wasn’t a thought it was a question. “I don’t know,” he replied with a cheeky glint in his eye. “Where have you seen me before?” Bill interrupted our puzzling as he outlined what he would like me to become involved with and why they were there. The film was going to be not just about his adopted son but also about race relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia - how it was, where it was now and where it was heading. They wanted me to accompany Pete, an Englishman, and guide him through certain parts of Aboriginal Australia to see first hand what many tourists might not.
The other bloke, Steve, would be the scriptwriter. When Bill finished explaining we still could not help passing curious glances at Pete, wondering where we had seen this Englishman before. When they left Jeff said “I saw that fella on The Bill. That’s it I have seen him on some British TV series or film his face was so familiar.”
It wasn’t until we started our trip and filming at Bill’s place in and around Perth’s exclusive beachside suburbs that I realised that Pete was the famous English actor, Pete Postlethwaite who acted in films such as In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off, Romeo and Juliet, Last of the Mohicans and many more.
We filmed as we talked of Louis’s life, when and where he was adopted, about his growing up and when he started to paint. We also talked about his tragic death, which was racially motivated, by the roadside where he was beaten and run over. Then it was time for Pete and I to head to Fremantle to visit Fremantle Prison where poet and singer songwriter, Robbie Walker, died in custody in 1984. Pete read one of Rob’s poems in the cell where Walker spent his last night on earth while I sang a song, a Kevin Gilbert poem I had put a tune to.
Next we travelled to Alice Springs where Louis was born and visited the town camp where his birth mother was from, the Little Sisters town camp. Pete was filmed talking to Louis’s family about how they felt when Louis, who was born Warren Braeden, was taken to be adopted and if they thought it was the best thing for him.
The travel and the film’s content was starting to take its toll on Pete and myself. We were feeling pretty knocked around by what we had seen and heard. Thank God we took a break now and then and retreated to the beautiful suburb of Wattle Grove, where we’d frequent the Kalamunda Hotel in the hills overlooking Perth and feast on their famous Guinness Pies.
After resting and planning our next move we travelled to Broome where we met up with Aboriginal leader, Patrick Dodson, who also appears in the film, giving it the political power it needed. After Broome we travelled to Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley and into the desert where we met up with some tribal elders at a place called Lumpu Lumpu. We were invited to sit around the fire that night while they sang songs in their language, a most memorable night. We slept out under the most amazing star-studded sky and next morning we were shown a beautiful painting. It was a painting of their country, which you could sit on and walk through while each of the elders would speak of their particular land. It was used as their native title claim. We then left the old people and went back to Broome where we finished filming.
I wrote a few songs while travelling and filming the story. One was in Alice Springs called Little Sisters, three at Wattle Grove, Lighthouse, Too Many Bridges and Spirit of Place, and one in Broome called Liyarn Ngarn which also became the name for the film. Along with some poems I had put tunes to, these songs became the album Journey that was released in 2007.