Tjilpi Bob Randall (c. 1934 – 13 May 2015) was a Yankunytjatjara elder from Australia, member of the Stolen Generations and NAIDOC's 1999 Person of the Year. He is credited with bringing to light the issue of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, in 1970. His song, "My Brown Skin Baby They Take Him Away," written at the time, is described as an "anthem" for the Stolen Generations. Randall died in Mutitjulu, Northern Territory, on 13 May 2015, aged approximately 80.
Randall was born around 1934 at Middleton Pond on Tempe Station in the Central Desert region of the Northern Territory, Australia.
At about the age of seven, Randall was taken away from his mother and family under government policy which forcibly removed all half-caste (half-Aboriginal) children from their families. He was one of thousands of Aboriginal children who were placed in institutions throughout Australia and came to be known as the "Stolen Generation." He grew up alone and never saw his mother again. He was taken to The Bungalow, an institution for half-caste for children in Alice Springs, NT, then later was moved to Croker Island Reservation in Arnhem Land thousands of kilometres away from his home and family where he, like the other children, was given a new identity and birth date. No records were kept of the Aboriginal nation, family name, or identity of the Aboriginal children who were stolen.
He was kept in government institutions until he was twenty when he, with new wife and baby, was banished for questioning white authorities. He moved to Darwin and later to Adelaide, South Australia, working, studying, establishing a career as an Aboriginal Cultural educator, and looking for his family and country of belonging. After many years of heart-wrenching searches, he found his roots and returned to his mother's country where he lives today at Mutitjulu Community beside Uluru.
Randall is affectionately known as "Uncle Bob" or "Tjilpi" according to the customary practice among indigenous Australians to show respect for senior members of the community by using the title "Uncle" or "Auntie" or "Tjilpi," special teaching uncle. Throughout his life, Randall has worked as an educator and leader for equal rights of all living, land rights and responsibility to the environment, Indigenous cultural awareness and preservation, and community development. He established Croker Island Night and several organisations in Darwin including the RRT Pony Club, Boxing Club, Folk Club, the Aboriginal Development Foundation. He worked as a Counsellor through the Methodist Uniting Church and led a country music band that serviced regional Aboriginal communities.
In 1970, Randall helped establish the Adelaide Community College for Aboriginal people and lectured at the college on Aboriginal culture. He served as the Director of the Australian Northern Territory Legal Aid Service in Alice Springs, performed on stage in "Child of the Night" and "Dream of Reconciliation," appeared in the documentary films Mixed Up Man and Secret Country by John Pilger, had roles in the movies Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centres at Australian National University, University of Canberra, and University of Wollongong.
In the early 1970s, Randall earned widespread recognition for his song, "My Brown Skin Baby, They Take 'Im Away," which focused national and international attention on the issues of the Stolen Generation. This song exposed the government's policy of stealing Aboriginal children and opened the door for indigenous story songwriters throughout Australia. It led to the filming of a documentary by the same name that won the Bronze Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Randall's lifelong efforts to retain Aboriginal culture and restore equal rights for all living were recognised in 1999 when he was named NAIDOC's "Person of the Year".
His story was recorded in 2002 by the National Library of Australia for the Bringing Them Home oral history project and appeared in the associated publication Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation (2002). In 2004, Randall was inducted into the NT Indigenous Music Hall of Fame, recognising the historical significance of his classic story songs. Randall has authored four books, including his autobiography, Songman, and three books for children: Tracker Tjuginji, "Stories From Country", and "Nyuntu Ninti". He contributed his personal story of being stolen to the anthology, "Stories of Belonging: Finding Where Your True Self Lives", edited by Kelly Wendorf, published in 2009.
In 2006, he co-produced and narrated the award-winning documentary, “Kanyini”. “Kanyini” was voted "best documentary" at the London Australian Film Festival 2007, winner of the “Inside Film Independent Spirit Award”, and winner of the Discovery Channel "Best Documentary Award" in 2006. In 2013 he appeared and performed in Mbantua Festival's outdoor performance, Bungalow Song. In 2014 he appeared in John Pilger's film, Utopia, and released two documentary films with Andrew Harvey of "Sacred Fire," "Songman" and "Living Kanyini."
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