Oral History Awards

Victorian Community History Award

Established in 1998, the Victorian Community History Awards are held annually to recognise the contributions made by Victorians in the preservation of the state’s fascinating history, published during the previous year. Presented by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, the awards celebrate the people involved in community history projects who are dedicated to telling local stories which help all Victorians to better understand their past.

Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria, Argus, ca 1940/1946, Women troops returning to Australia

Background

The Victorian Community History Awards are presented by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. In 2019 the Victorian Community History Awards initiated an oral history award within their set of prizes. As OHV were already hosting the Oral HIstory Innovation Awards, a new partnership was developed to avoid replication, and as such the Victorian Community History Award Oral History Award is supported and judged collaboratively by OHV, PROV and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Recipient of the 2023 award

Oral History Victoria warmly congratulates Richard Lowenstein and Martie Lowenstien for receiving the Victorian Community History Oral History Award for Don’t be too polite girls. This twenty-five minute documentary film illuminates the origins of Australian oral history through the extraordinary story of oral history pioneer Wendy Lowenstein: from her days in the postwar Communist Party youth movement and political theatre, through the development of the Australian Folk Movement, to travelling around Australia in a van with her husband and children in 1969 creating oral histories on a reel to reel recorder. Combining vivid film footage of political and cultural movements and from home movies, audio interviews with Wendy, and riveting filmed extracts from many of Wendy’s recordings, the documentary captures the irascible energy, determined politics and insatiable curiosity of one of Australia’s oral history pioneers. It evokes the excitement of creating new ways of listening to the histories of so-called ‘ordinary’ Australians. The film can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/814484001/ec29386ad1)

Wendy Lowenstein lying on bush ground

Image of Wendy Lowenstein as featured in Don’t Be Too Polite Girls

Other nominees shortlisted for the 2023 award

We offer our warm congratulations to the following projects which were high commended at the Oral History Award in 2023.

Beyond Bourke Street: Melbourne Buskers in the Digital World

(podcast series, by Daniel Bacchieri, at https://streetmusicmelbourne.com/podcast-episodes/)

In this 45-episode podcast series, Melbourne-based street musicians showcase original songs and talk about their lives and work as buskers. Passionate story-telling illuminates the shifting culture and economy of street music, the effects of the digital landscape, and the impact of COVID. Beautifully produced, and now archived through the National Film and Sound Archive, Beyond Bourke Street is a located oral history project that vividly captures the sounds of the city and the buskers who bring our streets to life.

 

Our Lives, Our Stories: Geelong Care Leavers talking back to their records

(exhibition at the Australian Orphanage Museum, Geelong, by Abigail Belfrage, consulting historian with The History Dept., in collaboration with the Australian Orphanage Museum project team, at https://aomuseum.com.au/we-lived-in-geelong/)

In this poignant, compelling exhibition, care leavers who spent all or part of their childhood in Geelong institutions speak back to their official records. In their oral histories, they criticise institutional documents that denigrated their families and belittled the children, and they recall significant childhood experiences that are ignored in the records. Taken together, and linked with maps and photographs that show the extraordinary number of sites in Geelong that housed children separated from families, the care leavers’ stories capture a painful and little-known aspect of Geelong’s history. The exhibition visitor books capture heartfelt responses from care leavers and family members who are determined to place personal stories on the record. 

 

Stonnington’s Young Voices of the Pandemic

(short film and interview archive, by Way Back When, at https://www.stonnington.vic.gov.au/Library/Visit-us/Stonnington-History-Centre/Young-Voices-of-the-Pandemic)

Covid affected everyone, in different ways, but we don’t often hear about children’s experience. In this imaginative, engaging and insightful short film ten young people from the City of Stonnington talk about living with COVID and lockdowns in Melbourne. They recall how they first heard about COVID, show drawings of the virus, reflect on how they spent their time in lockdown, talk about getting vaccinated, and share what they want future generations to know about living through the pandemic. Recorded using Zoom (a technology symbolic of the pandemic that changed the way we do oral history), each interview is fully transcribed and, together with the recordings, the collection is now held at the Stonnington History Centre where they are accessible to all.

Award Showcase event

On the 5th of March 2024 OHV hosted the Oral History Awards Showcase event, providing an opportunity to hear directly from the oral historians shortlisted for the 2023 Awards about their wonderful work. A recording of the showcase event can be viewed here.

Past winners of the award

Please click the links below for information about past winners and shortlisted entries.