Oral History Victoria warmly congratulates our life member Gwladys McLachlan for being the recipient of the 2022 Hazel De Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History. The award recognises Gwlad’s significant contribution to oral history over three decades in creating, preserving and seeking to ensure the public accessibility of hundreds of broadcast interviews about life in Victoria’s largest regional centre Geelong. Gwladys is the first Victorian to be awarded this honour.
The station 3YYR had a brief to provide access to diverse groups in the Geelong community, such as migrants, women and Indigenous people. Gwlad and others interviewed hundreds of local people on topics including daily life, work, growing up in orphanages, education, health, war experiences, social issues, sport and the arts. The interviews reflect the distinctive characteristics of Geelong’s history and also show the impact of Australian and world events on the region. After leaving Geelong Community Radio, Gwlad led efforts to preserve and index the interviews, recorded from 1988 to 2000 and captured on more than 200 audio cassettes. This work became the known as the Geelong Voices Oral History Project. She has worked with a range of community groups and organisations, secured grant funding for digitisation and developed indexes and other documentation to assist in ensuring public access to this collection. The project received funding support from a range of sources, and eventually the collection of interviews were donated to both the State Library of Victoria and the Geelong Heritage Centre (now part of the Geelong Regional Library) with a view to ensuring public access. The collection also includes summaries, photographs and documents to assist as finding aids. Some of the interviews can be accessed on the Culture Victoria website.
A long-serving member of Oral History Victoria and OHV life member since 2013, Gwlad has maintained an ongoing connection with the Geelong Voices project and collection. Over the years she has shared her knowledge and experience, both informally and as a speaker for interested groups. In her voluntary efforts she has promoted both the ideals of oral history, but also the importance of accessibility. She has also contributed to the field through her outreach in speaking at events hosted by organisations including Oral History Victoria and the Geelong Historical Society and a number of women’s groups.
The Hazel de Berg Award is presented every two years at the Oral History Australia conference to recognise a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of oral history over a considerable period of time. Hazel de Berg was one of Australia’s pioneering and most prolific oral historians, who recorded just over 1300 interviews during her lifetime. The Award is generously provided by the de Berg family who arranged for its design by a glass artist. For further details on the award and previous recipients visit the Oral History Australia award webpage.
Thanks to Judy Hughes for providing biographical details of Gwladys’ work.