Rewind – October 2017


This Rewind, just before the AGM on Thursday, 26th October,  2017 is bursting with congratulations, current and to come. First to the most recent OHV President: Alistair Thomson whose initial thoughts as the new President of OHA open the proceedings.  A little later come the congratulations to Miranda Francis and Michael Green who write about their experiences at the recent OHA Conference in Sydney, their award from OHV.

We are then pleased to announce the finalists in the Innovation Awards to be granted at the AGM and to publish the list of available AHA Prizes in 2017/2018

Next there are notices of the forthcoming ASRA Conference and finally a reminder of the IOHA Conference and a reprint of the Oral History Network News.



From Oral History Australia President – First Thoughts – 23 September 2017

I’m both honoured and delighted to be elected President of Oral History Australia at the recent AGM. First of all, I want to pay credit to Sue Anderson for her stalwart work, in many capacities including President, over the last several years. As our journal editor and international representative Sue will continue to play a key role.

I’m sending this email to all the new (or continuing) national committee members, but also to our departing colleagues from NSW (Catherine Freyne) and Queensland (Margaret Ridley) in part to thank them for their contributions over the past year or so, but also to ask Catherine and Margaret to forward this email to your state committee before you have your forthcoming October meetings. I’m hoping this email will help encourage one of your members to agree to be your state representative on the national committee. Indeed, please encourage anyone who is interested in the role to contact me (by email or phone 0452 221589)  if they’d like to talk about the role and the committee.

I thought I’d use this first email to highlight my first thoughts about OHA priorities over the next year or so. These thoughts are underpinned by my passion for oral history; my enjoyment in the diversity of our practice (community groups, professional historians, cultural institutions, academics from many disciplines, media workers, artists and performers, and so on); the thrill of the imaginative ways we record people’s stories and create histories in many ways and forms; but above all, the fact that we all like asking people to tell us their stories and then making those stories into extraordinary histories that make a difference.

First, I’d like to help the national OHA COMMITTEE to be a fun, effective and collegial group which works together to make things happen. Perhaps our main role is to support the state and territory oral history associations and their members, who are the heart and soul of oral history activity around the country. By working together we can ensure that each association benefits from and contributes to the others, that we don’t all reinvent the same wheel. We can do that through the national committee and by communicating effectively with state committees; and  through our website, journal and biennial conference – and perhaps in new ways using emerging means of communication. We are all volunteers on Oral History committees and we all have other hats, so I’m mindful of ensuring that none of us is over-burdened or over-stressed by our OHA voluntary work.

Second, I’ve always believed the BIENNIAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE is an essential event and by rotating it in turn around the states and territories we share the work but also ensure that each region gets a chance to showcase its work and boost membership and enthusiasm for oral history in the host state. At the recent AGM it was agreed that the national committee needs to make a significant financial contribution towards the state-run conference, but also that the national committee will help coordinate a national conference program committee that will develop the conference program and work alongside the state host association which manages local arrangements. I am very much hoping our Queensland colleagues will agree to host the 2019 conference, and I’m committed to doing everything we can to help out and make it a success. Just a week or so after I returned from England to live in Australia ten years ago, I attended the last national oral history conference in Queensland (in Brisbane), and for me that was a wonderful home-coming to the vibrant and welcoming Australian oral history movement. I look forward to returning in 2019!

Third, we’ll work with our new national web officer Judy Hughes (a coopted member of national committee) to improve the NATIONAL WEBSITE, to coordinate the links between national and state websites, and to consider ways of generating a more dynamic and participatory online presence for Australian oral history.

Fourth, we’ll support Sue as best we can to increase submissions and raise the profile of our ORAL HISTORY AUSTRALIA JOURNAL.

Fifth, where appropriate we’ll be a NATIONAL ADVOCATE FOR ORAL HISTORY, for example, if a state collection or institution is threatened, or by showcasing and celebrating wonderful and innovative Australian oral history work. A few months ago the national committee agreed to initiate two Oral History Australia prizes, a book award and a multimedia award. We’ll now work on the process and criteria for the awards with a view to presenting inaugural prizes in 2019.

Finally, those of you who attended the fantastic recent OHA conference in Sydney – thanks OHNSW! – may have heard me talk in the New Directions session about the risks and challenges of FUTURE PROOFING ORAL HISTORY. We all know that our analogue oral history reels and cassettes are slowly dying, though we’re perhaps not quite so alert to the risks for digital (or digitised) interviews. In short, even digital records are fallible, and as digital platforms evolve old digital formats can become unusable. In recent years I’ve begun to believe that only the major state and national archival institutions can future-proof oral history collections so they will last for hundreds of years, if not for ever. For the most part, only they have the resources, expertise and stability to ensure the long-term future of digital records. I’m also aware there are many wonderful oral history collections around the country (in local history societies, in local libraries, with community groups, in academics’ studies, etc) that may be lost. I’d like to start working towards an Australian Voices project  – ‘Saving Australia’s Oral History Heritage’ – based upon an equivalent current project in the UK, that will bring together key stakeholders (national, state and local) to raise funds, to identify at risk oral histories, to develop plans and protocols for their survival, and to ensure that oral histories recorded in the future have the best chance of survival. I’d like to imagine that in ten years we will look back and say that Oral History Australia helped make that happen.

Exciting times! I look forward to working with you all.

Best wishes, Al.

Alistair Thomson, President Oral History Australia

(Professor of History, Monash University,


Reports from OHAC 2017

Last month, thanks to the support of Oral History Victoria, I attended the 2017 Oral History Australia Conference in Sydney. The prospect of three days networking at an international conference was a little daunting.  Like a few other oral historians, I am more comfortable listening than talking. But, I am discovering that oral history conferences are remarkably friendly. Perhaps it is the diverse backgrounds of people who work with oral history? Delegates this year included: community and academic historians, journalists, documentary makers, librarians, sociologists, advocacy workers, writers, artists, volunteers in palliative care, community workers, photographers and archivists. Such a range of people but drawn together by a common interest in the spoken word.  As we know, oral historians share a belief that stories matter – that telling and hearing personal narratives makes a difference to both the teller and the listener.  Maybe this belief, and the shared nature of oral history, fosters a collegial atmosphere?

The conference theme this year was “Moving Memories: Oral History in a Global World”. Moving was interpreted both emotionally and literally with a strong focus on refugees, migrants and being “out of place”. Michael Green from the Behind the Wire project talked about interviewing refugees detained on Manus Island and the horrifying damage caused by Australian offshore immigration detention. Jacqueline Woodfork shared some of her deeply emotional interviews with Senegalese Second World War veterans.  Louise Whelan highlighted the power of photographs and the ways interviews enriched her work photographing migrants and refugees (and vice versa as she now interviews “with the eye of a photographer”).  Other presenters gave heartfelt descriptions of oral history in practice and the emotional labour for both interviewee and interviewer in their projects. Two particularly moving papers in a health context were Janette Partridge’s courageous work as a volunteer with the Biography Service of the Specialist Palliative Care Service at Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and Jennifer Rabach’s fascinating interviews with elderly women remembering their experiences as nurses in the 1920s and 1930s at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

The diverse backgrounds of the conference delegates were particularly evident in the roundtable discussions and panel presentations. The shared nature of these sessions provided opportunities to listen as well as contribute to discussions on oral history methodology, preservation and access to oral history collections, developments in podcasting, and the ethical and emotional challenges for interviewer and interviewee.  The morning plenary session on the last day focussed on “New Directions in Oral History”.  Panellists picked up threads which had run throughout the conference. These included the possibilities for oral history in the digital space as well as the costs and challenges involved in “future proofing” oral history collections when existing digital technology is so quickly outdated and the content becomes inaccessible unless moved across to new formats or platforms.  The role of public institutions such as State Libraries as well as Universities in cataloguing and preserving oral history collections in digital environments was raised. Ensuring the longevity of oral history recordings is an ongoing concern for the oral history community.

There was so much to absorb. My only dilemma was choosing between equally interesting concurrent sessions – if only the conference had been recorded, catalogued and preserved for a wider audience.  I understand some of the conference papers will appear in the 2017 online issue of the Oral History Australia Journal. I will be looking out for them later this year.

Miranda Francis

Of all the compelling sessions at the Oral History Australia 2017 conference, there’s one I can’t get out of my mind: Pip Newling, Ruth Melville and Sally Zwartz spoke about their work for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. As well as the public hearings, the Commission held thousands of private sessions, in which survivors could speak with one of the Commissioners. If the person agreed, the session was recorded, and his/her testimony was stripped of identifying details and adapted into a short written story by writers such as Pip, Ruth and Sally. The stories will be published with the Commission’s final report.

It makes for an unusual sort of oral history – or maybe it’s something else entirely – but it was a huge undertaking, and a commitment that our society must hear survivors’ experiences. It’s also a fine example of the breadth of the conference program, which ranged from the life work of esteemed academics, to one-off projects by artists, filmmakers and photographers.

I had the privilege of presenting the Behind the Wire’s project about Australian immigration detention: the book and exhibition, They Cannot Take the Sky; and the podcast, The Messenger. The first stage of our project is over, and the conference theme, “Moving Memories”, helped me reflect on its strengths and shortcomings. (So many presenters referenced the work of Alessandro Portelli that I feel I should never have begun without having read him!)

Violet Showers Johnson, professor of history and director of Africana studies at Texas A&M University, discussed her role as an insider/outsider researcher, working on oral histories of refugees from Sierra Leone in the United States. One interviewee questioned the content and validity of news reports of the conflict, and asserted ownership over the story of what happened: “We yay [eyes] see plenty!”

I was also interested in a session by Nien Yuan Cheng, PhD candidate at Sydney University. She advocated for what she calls “thick transcription” – writing detailed stage notes describing the way narrators move as they speak.

As a podcaster, I was struck by Hamish Sewell’s place making work in Nambour, which comprises a podcast and geo-located audio stories around town, and also, by the many projects of the Bankstown Youth Development Service over the course of decades – the latest of which is a podcast and documentary collection called “Mapping Frictions”.

Throughout the conference, I felt inspired by the wisdom of experienced practitioners, and thankful to be among a group of people who think so deeply about the power of conversations, and of the spoken word, recorded.

At the session about the Royal Commission, the three writers discussed what it was like to do that job – to go to your desk and listen for hours, days and months, to write up the stories, but never to meet the narrators. Pip Newling related a comment from another of the writers, who said the work had changed her – she’d become a quieter person and didn’t enjoy parties or large groups so much. I can relate to that sentiment, and I appreciated hearing it. Thank you to Oral History Victoria for giving me the chance to attend.

Michael Green


This year the OHV judges have shortlisted four wonderful entries. Each of which is Highly Commended for innovation in creating and using oral history. These are fine examples of projects that are working with memories to make histories with contemporary relevance.

There will be presentations about each of the shortlisted projects at an Awards Ceremony on Thursday 26 October 2017, at the Royal Historical Society Victoria building (239 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, opposite Flagstaff station, entrance on William St). The event will begin with drinks and nibbles from 5.30pm, with presentations at 6pm and the award announcements at 6.30pm. The Awards Ceremony will be followed by the OHV AGM (All Welcome).

The shortlisted nominees, in alphabetical order, are:

Stephanie Arnold (freelance cellist, in collaboration with Dr Robert Davidson, and interviewees), Across the Water

Across the Water is a distinctive and original oral history production that combines refugee oral history interviews with classical cello, using speech melody to compose a piece of music based on the sound, mood and content of each interview. Stephanie’s performance is striking and provocative, and her reflections on the process and effects of combining music and interview audio are insightful and challenging.

Fitzroy History Society, The Life and Times of Fitzroy from 1960s

The Fitzroy History Society has drawn upon extensive local contacts and collaborations to generate a series of impressive oral history interviews about the past half century of life and times in Fitzroy, with a particular emphasis on local involvement in urban development issues. Unusually for a community project, the online archive makes the full audio and transcript of each interview fully accessible and each online interview is complemented by superb personal photography.

Martin Richardson, Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre, Paynesville Memories

This participatory community project in the Gippsland coastal town of Paynesville makes highly effective use of a Facebook campaign and local fundraising and draws on the skills of a professional historian to generate invaluable interviews and photographs about the town’s twentieth century history. An active Facebook site ensures ongoing comment and participation by a wide range of present and former Paynesville residents and visitors.

Way Back When Consulting Historians, History Detectives: Mornington Peninsula Oral History Intergenerational Project

History Detectives is an exemplary collaboration between professional historians and schools on the Mornington Peninsula. Project members trained primary school students to conduct interviews with local older people and produced four engaging short films about schooling based on the interviews, as well as a filmed guide to oral history in schools for teachers. The pleasure and excitement evident in the films attests to the quality of this intergenerational collaboration.

AHA PRIZES 2017-18 – At a Glance


Further information and application details for all prizes and awards can be found on the AHA website.


This biennial prize is kindly donated by Professor Emerita Susan Magarey, and is administered and judged by a panel established by the Australian Historical Association and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.

It is awarded to the female person who has published the work judged to be the best biographical writing on an Australian subject in 2016 or 2017.


This Award is sponsored by members and associates of the Australian Historical Association, the University of Tasmania and the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority. Consisting of a $1,500 prize and citation, it recognises outstanding original research with a bearing on Australian convict history and heritage including in its international context, published in 2016 or 2017.


The W.K. Hancock Prize was instituted in 1987 by the Australian Historical Association to honour the contribution to the study and writing of history in Australia by Sir Keith Hancock. Offering a $2,000 prize and citation, it is intended to give recognition and encouragement to an Australian scholar who has published a first scholarly book

in any field of history in 2016 or 2017. Candidates must be members of the AHA at the time of application.

To join the AHA, visit:


The Serle Award is a biennial prize established through the generosity of Mrs Jessie Serle to honour the contribution to Australian history of her former husband, Dr Geoffrey Serle, for the best postgraduate thesis in Australian History awarded during the previous two years. The $2,500 biennial award may be used as a publication subsidy or to subsidise other costs associated with transforming the thesis into a book, such as the cost of carrying out extra research, funding permissions, copyright fees or illustrations: these examples are not exhaustive. Candidates must be members of the AHA at the time of application. To join the AHA, visit:

  • Applications for the next biennial prizes to be awarded are due 31 January 2018.



The Allan Martin Award is a research fellowship to assist early career historians further their research in Australian history. The biennial award of up to $4,000 will assist with a research trip undertaken in Australia or overseas in support of a project in Australian history. Applicants are required to show how the research is essential

to the completion of their project and how the findings will be published. It must be spent within two years.

  • Applications for the next Allan Martin Award to be awarded are due 1 December 2018.


The Jill Roe Prize is an annual prize established by the AHA to honour the career of Professor Emerita Jill Roe.

The Jill Roe Prize will be awarded annually for the best unpublished article-length work (5,000-8,000 words) of historical research in any area of historical enquiry, produced by a postgraduate student enrolled for a History degree at an Australian university. Candidates must be members of the AHA at the time of application. To join the AHA,


  • Applications for the next Jill Roe Prize to be awarded are due 31 March 2018.


National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association scholarships

NAA/AHA scholarships assist talented history postgraduate scholars with the cost of copying records held in the Archives. Assistance with digital copying costs will provide access to material that might not otherwise be possible.

Four scholarships worth $650 each will be awarded annually, in two rounds.

  • Applications for the next scholarships to be awarded are due 31 October 2017.


AHA/Copyright Agency Travel and Writing Bursaries

Ten bursaries, of $800 each, will cover travel and accommodation for participants at the AHA conference at the Australian National University, Canberra, 2–6 July 2016; the conference registration fee will be waived for bursary recipients. All presenters at the AHA conference must be members of the AHA at the time of the conference. To join the AHA, visit:

–   Applications for the next bursaries to be awarded will open in October 2017 and close March 2018. Keep an eye on the AHA website for further details

ASRA’s 2017 conferenceTaking it On – Audio Archiving for the Next Generation, will be held at AIATSIS51 Lawson Crescent, Acton ACT.Wednesday 25th, Thursday 26th October.

This year’s theme explores the impact of generational change on sound and audiovisual archives.

The program will include papers by experts and practitioners with experience from across the international audiovisual collections sector, including researchers, archivists, preservation specialists, collectors, oral historians, academics, broadcast professionals and creative practitioners.

Presenters include:
Jan Müller. Chief Executive Officer of the National Film and Sound Archive (NL, AU)
Lesley Bleakley. Director of Catalogue & Archive at British record company Beggars Group (UK)
Seb Chan. Chief Experience Officer at the Australian Centre for Moving Image (AU)
Dr Ben Byrne. Lecturer in Digital Media at RMIT University. Founder and director of Avantwhatever (AU)

The Conference Program is available at the ASRA website.

Registrations open now.

Included in the program is the free annual Alice Moyle Lecture:

“Traditional Aboriginal songs: from digital files to living culture”, Dr. Myfany Turpin of the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Welcome to IOHA Finland!

The Finnish Oral History Network (FOHN), University of Jyväskylä and the Finnish Literature Society (SKS) cordially propose to host the XX International Oral History Congress at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, from 18th June to 21th June 2018.

The theme of the XX IOHA Congress is Memory and Narration. The congress focuses on the complex and multidimensional nature of oral history, and we welcome presentations from diverse perspectives. We invite papers that focus on methodological issues concerning the production and analysis of oral histories and life stories. We especially encourage contributions related to oral history sources as narratives/narration and applications of methodological theories and practices. Therefore, the panels and presentations will address the following themes:

–       Archived oral history

–       Personal and shared narratives

–       Transgenerational memory

–       Class, gender, age and memory

–       Traditions, folklore and history

–       Oral history research in different disciplines

–       New waves of oral history

–       Oral history, theory and ethics

–       Oral history and narration

–       Life narratives and oral history

The XX IOHA Congress coincides with the anniversary of two important events in Finnish history, the centennial of the 1918 Finnish Civil War as well as the end of World War I. The congress organizers would therefore like to welcome also contributions that address memories of wars and other conflicts, narratives of survival, intergenerational war memories and communities of commemoration.

A more detailed Call for Papers can be found here:

For more information, please visit:

If you have any questions concerning the Congress, please email:

Oral History Network News number 75

Click HERE for the latest Network News, No. 75 October 2017.  Now that the excitement of the national conference held in Sydney has settled, we report on the election of Alistair Thomson as the new president of Oral History Australia, and bring you the first of several reports on the conference from participants (more will follow next month); also included is a profile of Karen George, the latest winner of the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History.

There are still a few listed conferences etc. on the horizon this year and in 2018.  And among the constant supply of reading and listening material to consider, several stand out for me.  One is a film by Su Goldfish, about her search for lost family: “Rich with archival images … A gripping and deeply-moving story of one person’s search for the story of her life.”  Clearly the heading for this section needs to include “viewing”!

As well, there are two references to books from one of the keynote speakers at the conference, Prof. Dalia Leinarte, and one, about life stories of Lithuanian women, looks to be a particularly rewarding read: “Based on interviews, the journalistic press of that era, as well as other material, the book reveals how propaganda shaped women’s understanding of family and work responsibilities, child care, interpersonal relationships, romantic love, and friendship.”

A full list of contents follows.

Francis Good, Editor

Oral History Network News No. 75, October 2017

  • Alistair Thomson new President of Oral History Australia
  • Oral History Australia’s national conference, September 2017 – reports
  • Karen George wins 2017 Hazel de Berg Award
  • Workshop, Capturing Memories: Oral History in the Digital Age, Sydney, Oct. 2017


  • Exhibitions:
    – Our City: 175 Years in 175 Objects, Sydney, October–November 2017
    – War at Sea: the Navy in WW1, Huskisson, Jervis Bay NSW, to 15 Oct. 2017
  • Talk: Our time-travelling brains, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, Sydney, Oct. 2017


  • Fake website for International Oral History Association
  • State Library of NSW online guide to using Oral History & Sound collections
  • Looking for lost records of an oral history interview


  • Dictionary of Sydney: 1896 Lumiéres film promotion in Sydney
  • Film: The Last Goldfish. A daughter’s search for her lost family.
  • OUP Blog, Oral History Review:
    – Working class narratives in the twenty-first century – oral history in the classroom
    – Oral history & the importance of sharing at Pride in Washington DC
  • History Council NSW’s annual lecture by Michelle Arrow, online on ABC Radio National
  • British Library racing to save archived sounds
  • Lovers & strangers: an immigrant history of post-war Britain, by Clair Wills
  • Prof. Dalia Leinarte:
    – Adopting & remembering Soviet reality.  Life stories of Lithuanian women, 1945–1970
    – The Soviet past in the post-socialist present: methodology and ethics in Russian, Baltic and Central European oral history and memory studies.


  • Royal Australian Historical Society, Cowra NSW, October 2017
  • Museums Galleries Australia, Melbourne, June 2018
  • Australasian Sound Recordings Association, Canberra, October 2017


  • International Oral History Association, Finland, June 2018
  • Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, London, January 2018
  • European Social Science History Conference, Ireland, April 2018
  • Oral History Society (UK), Ireland, June 2018

OHV Innovation Awards 2017 – Nominee presentations and award announced at our AGM

This year the OHV judges have shortlisted four wonderful entries. Each of the shortlisted entries is Highly Commended for innovation in creating and using oral history. These are fine examples of projects that are working with memories to make histories with contemporary relevance. See summaries of the Highly Commended submissions on our OHV Awards page.

There will be presentations about each of the shortlisted projects at an Awards Ceremony on Thursday 26 October 2017, at the Royal Historical Society Victoria building (239 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, opposite Flagstaff station, entrance on William St). The event will begin with drinks and nibbles from 5.30pm, with presentations at 6pm and the award announcements at 6.30pm. The Awards Ceremony will be followed by the OHV AGM (all welcome).

Details on our Event page.