Oral History NSW
Giving Voice to the Past
Giving Voice to the Past

IOHA conference June 2018 - scholarships available

by | June 5, 2017


The 2018 IOHA conference, 'Memory and Narration', is being held in Finland. The closing date to submit proposals for conference papers is August 31 2017. Those whose papers are accepted may apply for a scholarship; closing date for scholarship applications is December 30 2017. Read about the conference here and download details about the scholarships, including application form, here.

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Download information about the scholarships here, and for details about the conference visit here.

A Cultural History of Sound, Memory, and the Senses

by | March 13, 2017


An exciting new title co-edited by OH NSW past president Paula Hamilton and Joy Damousi

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For details and to take advanatge of a discount offer, click here.

Hazel de Berg Award 2017

by | March 13, 2017


Nominations for this prestigious award now open. Details on the Awards and Grants page.

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Call for nominations open now. Nominations close June 30. Check the Awards and Grants page for details

New audio available - 'Painful memories' seminar, Dec 3 2016

by | January 6, 2017


The final OH NSW seminar for the 2016 was'Painful memories - interviewing survivors of trauma'. The three speakers were insightful, thought-provoking and engaging. If you couldn't be there, there's no need to miss out- you can listen to the audio of the event right here

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The final OH NSW seminar for 2016 was'Painful memories - interviewing survivors of trauma'. The three speakers were insightful, thought-provoking and engaging. If you couldn't be there, there's no need to miss out - audio of the event is right here

OHA Journal indexes now available - an invaluable resource

by | January 6, 2017


From 2017, Oral History Australia's annual journal will be published online only. Comprehensive and useful indexes to the content published throughout its hard copy life, from 1979-2016, are now available here.

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Oral History Australia's annual journal was first published in 1979. From 2017 it will be available online only.

Indexes to all the material published in the journal throughout its hard copy life - articles, reviews, reports and peer-reviewed papers - are available here. These are an invaluable resource, well worth exploring. 

2017 Oral History Australia Conference - video welcome

by | December 20, 2016


View a short welcome video from Dr Indira Chowdhury, one of the 2017 Oral History Australia Conference's Keynote Speakers, on the conference website here.

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View a short welcome video from Dr Indira Chowdhury, one of the 2017 Oral History Australia Conference's Keynote Speakers, on the conference website here.

This is a War Zone, Baby – Improvise!

by Aviva Sheb’a | September 27, 2016


Aviva Sheb’a writes about a project that utilises oral history in a different and unusual way ...

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Aussie, strictly Kosher, recent ballet school graduate, 17-year-young flamenco and jazz dancer Aviva goes to entertain the troops in Vietnam – with a rhythm and blues band. What could possibly go wrong?

I toured (then South) Vietnam for three months, March to June, 1970. The most common exclamation there: this is a war zone, Baby – improvise!

My inability to readjust to life in Australia following my tumultuous tour, as well as my innate lust for adventure and performance led me to travel widely and to live and work in several different countries. My survival and sanity-saving mechanism was – and remains – my art. I developed my own method of using voice and body as a way to express and integrate my deepest emotions, coining the term, Vocal Dance, while working and living in Amsterdam in the 1970s.

In 1996 my two young children and I moved from Dunolly, a small town in Central Victoria, to Adelaide, where I began writing This is a War Zone, Baby – Improvise!  I intended to write it as a book and as a one-woman show, with each selling the other. I had no idea how to write a book, though had devised and performed two shows before. I thought I’d knock it on the head in 18 months. Bwahahahaha!

Twenty years on, I’ve performed the show in numerous versions; the book is in draft innumerable. Having the book manuscript professionally assessed three years ago showed me how to improve it by putting aside five years’ work – saving it for something else. Lesson: spend a few dollars on a good manuscript assessor and save a fortune in time and effort. (Thanks to Christine Paice, who did a marvellous job swiftly, with enormous compassion and integrity.)

The first season of the show was in the Adelaide Fringe, 2000. The final performance was 30 years to the day after innocent, naïve, over-protected Aviva arrived in the thick of the Vietnam War. I have kept developing the show, performing at in theatres, festivals and conferences. As the title suggests, each show is different. In 2013, This is a War Zone, Baby – Improvise! was the first of the Merrigong Theatre Company (Wollongong) Make it@Merrigong Studio Sessions, directed by Anne-Louise Rentell. In 2014, Anne-Louise and I presented together at the International Oral History Congress in Barcelona.  As well as excerpts from the show, we talked about our individual approaches to making performance from oral history, and our collaboration, which started in 2010.

I am currently rehearsing a new version under the direction of University of Wollongong Creative Arts Faculty’s Dr Janys Hayes. We are enjoying the process of discovering what Janys brings out of me. One of the delights of working with a great director is finding new ways of expression. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with Anne-Louise, and now Janys. That they’re friends who have a great respect for each other is a huge bonus.

This time, audiences will laugh and cry as I share some of the stories I’ve not performed before, as well as showing the development of Vocal Dance. Those who wish will also have a chance to join me and experience the joys of Vocal Dance.

Recently, the Phoenix Theatre Company received ownership of the Bridge Street Theatre, and are hosting a season of This is a War Zone, Baby – Improvise!

October: Friday 21, Saturday 22 at 8pm, Sunday 23 at 3pm. Bridge Street Theatre, 24 Bridge Street, Coniston (Wollongong). Tickets: $15. Bookings http://www.phoenixtheatre.net.au/

See www.avivasheba.com for further insight into Aviva’s work. Contact: aviva@avivasheba.com


OH NSW AGM - President's report

by | August 30, 2016


Read outgoing OH NSW president Professor Paula Hamilton's address to the recent AGM, and meet incoming president Anisa Puri

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President’s Report for AGM, August 2016

This is my last Report for the 2015-6 year as I have been President of Oral History Association NSW for three years and it is time to pass the baton to others.

So in writing this address I ask myself what have I learned and what have I contributed to this not for profit organisation with 200 or so members? Intellectually I have tried to place the remembering more at the centre of oral history practice, rather than the interview itself.  Memory as we know, ‘refers to the past as it is lived’ and my own research over a number of years has been so enriched by the study of memory and how it works as an act of imagination, interconnection and is conjured through the senses – smell, taste, touch, sight and most of all sound.  The vivid memories connected with sensory triggers are produced almost entirely through chance associations, so there is that wonderful sense of happenstance that infuses the otherwise purposeful interview.

I have also aimed to link the practice of oral history more with how it is used, by asking metaphorically: who listens, and how?

Practically I have aimed at expanding our reach: not just to focus on basic workshops held regularly at our Sydney base but to get out there and both teach oral history and spread the word to a variety of groups – so over these years myself and others who gave workshops, launched books and talked, have been to Riverina, Wagga,  Young, Wollongong, Captains Flat, Grafton, Dubbo, Kandos, Tumut, Newcastle.  Part of this has been expanding the capacity of local studies library collections for the state library regional co-ordinator Ellen Forsyth through educating them about oral history projects and preservation of oral history as records.  Of the Sydney suburban areas we have also given talks at Ashfield, Lane Cove, Camden, Callan Park.

Second, I have tried, with the help of digital savvy members of the committee who know better than I about the potential of new media platforms for oral historians, to encourage stronger engagement with different ways of using oral history for communicating with people,  beyond the website and the book, particularly through our digital storytelling workshop, podcasting,  and radio. I would like to see more exploration about what is possible in different forms and how it varies. Can you tell more and better stories from an oral history tourist-type listening post or kiosk in the street? Or is it more evocative to make podcasts to use along waterways or country town walks?

I have also aimed to develop better access to collections of oral histories that are already in existence, assisting the Dictionary of Sydney project digitisation of the Liverpool oral history collection, a project started by Virginia Macleod before me; and the major project to which OHNSW contributed both money and time that was to survey the state library collection of oral histories over 770 tapes/digitising data, again with my colleague Virginia MacLeod.  Our report to the library has helped librarian Bruce Carter to build a research guide to the oral history collection that is ongoing.

What I take away is a renewal of faith in the humanity of people at large – no matter what goes on in politics, the vast bulk of people I meet are keenly interested in the past, have great stories and are just decent good people who want to understand and find out about the past and its meaning on a personal, local or national basis.

Over the three years working with a shifting members of a committee and been on several trips I have also made new friends. They say if you put two oral historians in a car together for four to six hours travelling to workshop destinations, then they will know each other’s life story at the end and this is true; I have learned insights from those in different walks of life on the committee and valued their ideas and contributions. We have had some very good discussions on occasions, as a sideline to the business of committee work. We are now also in the throes of organising the next national Oral History Australia conference to be held in Sydney in September 2017. After a reluctant start from your committee it now seems to be going very well and we want to hold the best event we can with our resources.

I have not always been successful in my endeavours but I would like to give heartfelt thanks to everyone who has assisted along the way. (Much of the work of a committee like this and a newsletter is hidden). Raphael Samuel, a British historian is famous for saying that producing History in any form is’ the work of many hands’ and we all know that is the case as more of our efforts become formal collaborations with different organisations.  I know any improvements will be carried on by those who succeed me with ideas for different directions that will keep the future of Oral History NSW safe. So keep in mind: when the replicant in the film  Blade Runner says that ‘experience is washed away in time like tears in rain’ he clearly had not met any oral historians!

Professor Paula Hamilton, President, August 2016


Anisa Puri is a professional historian with a wide range of experience in historical research, oral history, heritage interpretation, and project management. She has a Master of Public History from Monash University and was the Project Officer of the Australian Generations Oral History Project from 2012-2015.

Since 2015, she has worked as a Historian and Heritage Consultant at GML Heritage. In this role, she has conducted historical research, written detailed and summary histories, produced Heritage Interpretation Plans, and developed interpretive content for an exhibition. She is also currently working on the HIV/Aids Volunteers Oral History Project as a research assistant at Macquarie University.

Anisa has been a committee member of PHA Vic and Oral History Victoria. Her first book, Australian Lives: An Intimate History, co-authored by Professor Alistair Thomson, will be published by Monash University Press in 2017.



OH NSW AGM - new committee

by | August 27, 2016


The OH NSW AGM on Saturday August 27 elected a new president and a committee with some familiar and some fresh faces. Follow link for details. 

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OH NSW’s AGM was held on Saturday August 27, at History House. Professor Paula Hamilton stepped down from her role as president, and previous president Virginia Macleod stepped down from her role on the executive committee. The meeting expressed heartfelt thanks to both.  They continue with key roles as organisers of the 2017 OH Conference being held in Sydney, and Paula also remains on the OH NSW executive committee. The new president of OH NSW is Anisa Puri, who has been an active committee member for several years, most recently as coordinator of the OH NSW events calendar and the OH NSW facebook page (go on, like us!) Other members of the newly-elected committee: Scott McKinnon (vice president), Andrew Host (treasurer), Bruce Carter (public officer), Cheryl Ware (secretary), Sally Zwartz (website), Catherine Freyne and Paula Hamilton. As well, Francis Good will continue in his role as editor of Network News.

Oral History in Conversation: Across Communities and Context

by | August 27, 2016


Audio of this seminar, held on August 27, can be heard here.

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Scott McKinnon leads a conversation between (L-R) Dr Fabri Blacklock, Jacqui Wasilewsky and Robyn Swanson at a well-attended OH NSW seminar on August 27. More details and audio of the event are here.

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