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Indigenous Oral History

The State Library of WA oral history collection is primarily of audio tape-recorded, structured interviews, in which interviewees talk about their lives, memories, particular events and experiences of the past. Interviews in the collection span well over a century of memories and many are with people born in the 19th century, the earliest born in 1863.  There are stories of war, personal and family relationships, mining, droving, prevailing social attitudes and farm life.  

The oral history collection contains numerous interviews with or about Indigenous people. The best way to search for oral histories is through an advanced search on our catalogue and limit the material type to oral history. You can search for a person's name, or useful keywords include aborig* (which will look for all words starting with aborig including aboriginal, aborigine, aboriginality, etc. A useful subject heading for browsing is Aboriginal Australians.

Indigenous Oral History Holdings

There are many interviews with Aboriginal people speaking on a variety of subjects about their lives, experiences and families. The earliest recording, taken in 1963, is a message from the Ethel Creek Aboriginal Community to the Mckay Range peoples. Some of the more recent interviews include important West Australian leaders such as Noongar elder and activist Norman Charles Harris interviewed in 2001 and leading Aborginal education advocate May O'Brien

Many signficant series concern Aboriginal people and have been acquired as part of our heritage collections.  For example:

  • Interviews collectied by Bill Bunbury of the Social History Unit of the ABC for radio series such as, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"  (Mogumber Mission), 'Background Briefing" (police and Aboriginal relations) and "Any Body Could Afford Us" (Aboriginal historical perspectives);
  • Kimberley Language Resource Centre series made up of 23 sound cassettes with Aboriginals of communities in the Kimberley;
  • Interviews collected by Anna Haebich of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University with Aboriginal people of the South West and wheatbelt

A number of oral history interview series have been produced as part of the research associated with a publication or special project.  For example:

For more information about accessing our oral history collection please see our Finding Oral History page.

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Page last updated: Monday 13 August 2012