Oral History

Oral History is a great way to capture and preserve the elusive history that is memory and lived experience. The Way Back When team are all trained oral historians and are skilled in interviewing and recording oral histories for future preservation, research and multimedia storytelling. Our oral history interviews are recorded at broadcast quality to enable footage to be used for future digital applications.

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Boroondara Centenarians Oral History Project

Way Back When worked with the City of Boroondara on an oral history project for centenarians living in the municipality. Ten centenarians were interviewed, and their personal stories were written into narrative profiles based on the transcripts of their interviews. Eight profiles were exhibited at the Hawthorn Town Hall during the Boroondara Seniors Festival in October 2018, alongside sketch portraits of each centenarian, drawn by artist Peter Wegner.

Veterans Heritage Program

With the support of the Veterans Branch of the Victorian State Government, Museums Australia (Victoria) – MA (Vic) – is engaged in a multi-faceted Veterans Heritage Program. Part of this program is to develop and deliver a series of oral history workshops for ex-service organisations that will enable ten Victorian ex-service organisations to conduct oral histories within their communities. Way Back When worked with MA (Vic) on this exciting project.

Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Oral History Project

The Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens is a not-for-profit association established to provide support and assistance to the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens. In 2017, the group celebrated its 35-year anniversary. This significant milestone, together with the recent passing of the first convenor of the group and other influential early members, inspired the Friends to undertake an oral history project to interview those who played a significant role in the creation and evolution of the association in its first decade. 

Daylesford Stories

Daylesford Stories explores ideas of community, identity and belonging. Through the personal stories of individual community members, this collection of material looks at how and why this region has become a place of meaning and significance for lesbians and gays, and for those who identify as part of LGBTIQ communities. The material is based on interviews with a range of community members and incorporates items from the Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives (ALGA). Developed for Culture Victoria, in conjunction with Tiny Empire Collective, the film and audio profiles, image galleries and short films on the GLBTIQ community in Daylesford can be accessed here.

Jesuit Social Services Oral History Project

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, Jesuit Social Services engaged Way Back When to capture the unique story of this ground-breaking organisation by undertaking an oral history project. Recording the memories and stories of people who have a strong connection with Jesuit Social Services is a wonderful way to preserve elements of the organisation’s history not currently on record. Interviews were carried out with current and former staff and board members and a series of narrative pieces crafted around the material gathered. This project was a great way to kick off the 40th anniversary commemorations. 

Mornington Peninsula Intergenerational Oral History Project

This project with the Mornington Peninsula Shire focused on gathering oral histories to preserve the unique stories of local communities and personalities. Way Back When produced a suite of short documentary-style films that highlight the comparison between 'then and now' by exploring the experiences of education and schooling on the peninsula across generations. The project involved a series of workshops with local primary school students to train them in the discipline of oral history, followed by the students conducting their own oral history interviews with members of the Mornington Peninsula community. The films can be viewed here.

Conserving Community Memorabilia: North Balwyn RSL Sub-Branch

The North Balwyn RSL Sub-Branch opened in 1959, but its doors closed forever in April 2016. Way Back When was engaged to assist this RSL in recording, digitising and conserving its records, history and memorabilia prior to closure. This project involved capturing the oral history of long-standing RSL members, as well as researching and writing biographical histories of the 186 individuals who are memorialised on a wall of plaques. This exciting project required us to comb through NAA service records - something we've become very good at over this WWI centenary - and to collect oral histories.


Mornington Peninsula Oral History Project

Over the summer of 2013-2014 Way Back When spent many sunny days working with Mornington Peninsula Shire and eight historical societies within its Local History Network on an exciting oral history recording project. The aim of the project was to document and record the stories of senior and significant members of the local community that have been specifically tied to the area. The collection of interviews represents a rich and valuable part of the history of the Mornington Peninsula and creates a link with the past for the local community in the present and the future.

ABC Radio National 'Hindsight' Program: A Singular Life, Monte Punshon

Following on from the success of last year's History Week event, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, run by the Professional Historians Association (Victoria), Way Back When was commissioned to produce a radio program looking at the life and legacy of Ethel May 'Monte' Punshon for ABC Radio National's Hindsight show. You can listen to the program here.

National Library of Australia History of Information Technology and Computing

The National Library of Australia commissioned a series of oral history interviews to record and document the history of the information and computing technology industry in Australia. During this project Way Back When travelled around Australia to talk with pioneers of the industry – a rare opportunity to document the growth and change over time of an entirely new discipline and industry. 

Our Stories: Sephardi Association of Victoria

Our Stories was a collaborative project between the Sephardi Association of Victoria, Way Back When and Catherine Forge Photography. This project captured some of the stories of Melbourne's small but thriving Sephardi community and the objects that have a significant place in their lives. This website: https://ourstoriessephardivic.wordpress.com/ showcases a small sample of the wealth of experience, culture and heritage in this rich community. 

Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria Oral History Project

Over the past eight years Way Back When has been working with the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) to develop a comprehensive oral history collection for its archive. Since 2011 oral history interviews have been conducted with more than fifty individuals who have been involved in various aspects of RASV and, more specifically, the Royal Melbourne Show. Collecting these stories records and celebrates the valuable contribution and dynamic history of this strong and unique community. These stories have now been gathered and made available as part of the RASV Virtual Museum.

Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants Oral History Project

In 2009, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to over half a million Australian children who experienced institutional care in the 20th century. Following this important apology, the National Museum of Australia and the National Library of Australia embarked upon a project to acknowledge and remember the experiences of these children. A significant part of this was an oral history project coordinated by the National Library of Australia. Way Back When was part of the Melbourne interview team for the oral history project.

Click Here to be taken to the National Library of Australia's Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants Oral History Project website. 

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Hoffman Brickworks

Hoffman Brickworks Brunswick (often known simply as Hoffman's) on Dawson Street in Brunswick is a site of historical and social significance that is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The remaining buildings on the Hoffman site provide one of few examples of brick-making practices in 19th century Australia and the site itself is a symbol of community and the emergence and development of industry in Brunswick. Way Back When worked closely with Save the Brickworks Inc (STB) on a two-part oral history project that documented the experiences of working at Hoffman's as well as community connections to it.   

Orica Deer Park Oral History Project

Way Back When was commissioned to capture oral histories relating to several historic buildings on a former explosives manufacturing site in Deer Park. Due to the nature of the business, many of the buildings will need to be demolished when the site is redeveloped. Orica was keen to capture this history before this happens.

 Oral History of Sprayed Bituminous Surfacing

As a low cost, efficient and practical method of building and extending Victoria’s road network, sprayed bituminous road surfacing played an important role in the development of an extensive network of roads in Victoria. Way Back When worked with VicRoads to create an oral history collection that explores the story of sprayed sealing in this state and celebrates its contribution to Victoria’s roads. A series of themed audio podcasts incorporating excerpts from these oral histories are now available to be downloaded from the VicRoads website.

Click here to be taken to the VicRoads website where you will find these podcasts.

ABC Radio National ‘Hindsight’ Radio Series: Australian Generations

This five-part radio series, produced by Way Back When for the ABC Radio National weekly history program ‘Hindsight’, draws together material from 13 oral histories that were undertaken as part of the Australian Generations pilot project. The programs subtly explore generational change by looking at themes such as childhood memories, early school days, family relationships, leisure, building a life and starting a family. The series was broadcast throughout May 2010 and can now be downloaded from the 'Hindsight' website.

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Click here to be taken to the 'Hindsight' archive where you will find the Australian Generations series.

Australian Generations: An Oral History of Everyday Life Pilot Project

A collaboration between Monash and La Trobe Universities, the National Library of Australia and the ABC, the Australian Generations oral history project aims to record and document aspects of everyday life in Australia. By carrying out a series of interviews, the pilot project explores the feasibility of building an outstanding national collection of interviews. The collection will highlight continuity and change in the 20th century by gathering personal recollections and experiences that follow themes such as faith and belief, family and friends, place and belonging, money and making do, politics and personal life. Interviews will be stored in the NLA’s Oral History and Folklore Collection.

Personal Oral History

Way Back When has worked with individuals to record their experiences and life stories. Personal oral histories have been carried out both for individuals and their families and on behalf of clubs and other organisations. Interviews often cover personal themes such as childhood, schooling, migration to Australia, war time experiences and repatriation to Australia, post war life, family, children, grandchildren and recollections triggered by photographs, as well as contributions to volunteer organisations and groups.

Oral History Workshops

Drawing on our oral history experience and expertise, Way Back When runs workshops that cover the history, theory and practice of oral history interviewing. Custom workshops have been coordinated and run for Oral History Victoria, Museums Australia (Victoria), RACV Club, University of the Third Age (U3A), City of Boroondara, City of Glen Eira, Wyndham City Council, Yarra Ranges Regional Museum and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. All workshops are hands on and practical. Participants are encouraged to bring their own recording equipment to practice recording and interviewing techniques. 


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