Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History
About the award
Every two years, in conjunction with our national conference, Oral History Australia (OHA) presents an award to recognise a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of oral history over a considerable period of time.
The award is named after Hazel de Berg, one of Australia’s pioneering and most prolific oral historians, who recorded just over 1300 interviews during her lifetime.
From 1957, Hazel de Berg documented Australia’s social history by recording poets, novelists, historians, painters, musicians and scientists – people who were contributing to the ongoing intellectual life of Australia.
A significant number of her interviews are now held in the oral history collection of the National Library of Australia as the Hazel de Berg Oral History Collection, a collection which comprises approximately 1300 hour-long taped interviews.
The inaugural Hazel de Berg Award was presented to Beth Robertson at the International Oral History Association Conference in Sydney 2006. The OHA’s national committee determines the winner of the award based on nominations. It is an open award and is not restricted to OHA members.
The De Berg family has generously offered to provide this award and arranged for its design by a glass artist. Each award is inscribed with the recipients name and the date and accompanied by a citation.
Nominations and judging process
Nominations for the Hazel de Berg award are currently not being accepted.
The next award will be presented in 2024 in conjunction with the OHA Biennial Conference.
The Judging Panel for the award is appointed by the committee of Oral History Australia. It comprises a member of Oral History NSW/ACT, a member of one other Australian state oral history association and a senior member of the Australian oral history profession.
Promotion and raising awareness
Gwlad has significantly promoted and raised awareness in her regional community demonstrated by presentations of radio interviews; as a speaker at many public events – promoting both the ideals of oral history, and also the importance of accessibility at a grass roots level. She has also contributed extensively through outreach by speaking at events hosted by organisations including Oral History Victoria, the Geelong Historical Society, and several local women’s groups.
Gwlad has made a substantial contribution, predominately as an unpaid volunteer Oral Historian, demonstrated by her work as a Community Oral Historian for three decades in her local community; as a long serving member of Oral History Victoria; by conducting numerous voluntary presentations; and as the Sole Life member of Oral History Victoria.
Initiation and implementation
The large number of projects Gwlad initiated, undertook, and delivered is impressive, but what made her work distinct was also the variety of subjects, and her focus on diversity – by ensuring the interviewee voices of less heard groups (at the time) such as women, migrants, Indigenous people, and people who grew up in Out-of-Home care were valued and included.
Gwlad significantly contributed to documenting the history of the Geelong community in many different areas of its history – delivering an important microcosm of more broad Australian historical stories, while also providing a voice for the most marginalised in her community.
Preservation and archiving
Gwlad made a very significant contribution to the preservation and archiving of her work by ensuring their permanent preservation, access to interviews, and by saving an at-risk collection.
Rosemary Block has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the field of oral history, with her significant contributions spanning nearly twenty years (2001 to 2019). During her professional career as the inaugural Curator of Oral History at the State Library of NSW (a role she held for more than twenty years) she built, managed, commissioned and curated the State Library’s Oral History Collection, and supplemented the collection by providing a wide range of professional services and support to the public. Rosemary also served as National President of Oral History Australia from 1993 to 1997 and 1999 to 2007, as well as serving as NSW state President from 1991 to 2010.
Her contribution to the field has been substantial, including: organising international and national conferences, and state workshops and seminars; authoring a wide range of published work; and she has provided a considerable degree of mentoring to emerging oral historians. A great deal of her efforts have been made in a voluntary capacity and there is no doubt that her work in the field has left oral history in this country in a very strong position.
Dr Karen George’s extensive career exemplifies all that is inspiring about working in oral history. She has spent many years amplifying the voices of those normally overlooked or forgotten by others and has participated as an oral historian in some of the most important national projects in Australia, such as the ‘Bringing Them Home’ Oral History project (1999-2002) and the ‘Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants Oral History project’ (2009-2012). These two projects underline her strong commitment over time to Indigenous people and children vulnerable to abuse in state institutions.
Karen developed important relationships working with Indigenous South Australians through her research for Link-Up SA on the history and records of homes into which members of the Stolen Generations were placed as children. As a measure of trust, she has also been employed by Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia over the last few years and carried out 30 oral histories to write a history of their community centre. In relation to children, Karen has worked for the South Australian section of the Find and Connect Website where she was made a Research Fellow from 2011-2014. From 2005 to 2007 she worked as research historian and writer for the South Australian Government’s Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry.
As a professional historian and researcher, Karen has given papers at national conferences, and published widely utilising oral history research for her many projects. She also worked as the Oral Historian for the City of Adelaide from 1993-2001. Finally, as a long-time volunteer member of OHA South Australia, she has served as president and committee member for over 20 years, regularly presented workshops on oral history ethics and practice, generously sharing her expertise and mentoring others.
Karen George has spent much of her working life and time volunteering over the last two decades, tirelessly promoting and building the profile of oral history both in South Australia and nationally.
Jill Cassidy has made an outstanding contribution to the cause of oral history in Australia for almost 30 years, undertaken both in a professional and voluntary capacity.
Working at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston, Jill conducted oral histories which formed the basis of exhibitions to commemorate Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988. She later authored a number of publications including Launceston Talks: Oral Histories of the Launceston Community. As a result of the project’s success in documenting the history of northern Tasmania, Jill was appointed as the Museum’s first Oral Historian. She went on to initiate, manage and conduct further oral histories, exhibitions, publications and ran engaging and successful public programs. Jill firmly established the Museum’s collection and her commitment to recording and preserving interviews ensured the collection continued to grow and that oral history became an integral part of QVMAG exhibitions. Jill’s contribution here was exceptional. She was also a member of the Editorial Committee for The Companion to Tasmanian History.
In 1991, soon after being appointed as Oral Historian at QVMAG, Jill initiated the formation of the Tasmanian Branch of the Oral History Association of Australia, now Oral History Tasmania. She has been either branch President or Secretary since its inception, and has edited the newsletter Real to Reel for most of that time. Jill has tirelessly contributed to the promotion of oral history practice in Tasmania. She has conducted annual oral history workshops in Hobart and Launceston, along with others around the state when requested. She has given talks about oral history to many groups from historical associations to school groups and has contributed a number of oral history papers to conferences and seminars. Jill ran a local oral history symposium for Deviot – the community where she lives. She has also played a central role in the national association, as President and as the Convener of two very successful national conferences. She has been a member of the national executive since 1991.
Jill has played a central and critical role in Tasmanian oral history. She continues to be the heart of Oral History Tasmania and has generously mentored many Tasmanian Oral Historians.
Francis Good has made an outstanding contribution to the cause of oral history in Australia for close to 30 years. Appointed as manager of the Northern Territory Archive’s Oral History Unit in 1985 he actively and enthusiastically promoted the collection and preservation of oral interviews, introduced high standards in sound recording, and ensured interviews were easily accessible.
Francis initiated oral history projects focusing on disaster survival including the Japanese bombing raids on Darwin in 1942; Cyclone Tracy in 1974; and the 1998 Katherine floods. He has recorded stories of the pastoral industry and of Aboriginal communities including outstations; he trained indigenous people in oral history techniques; he commissioned interviews and travelled widely undertaking interviews. His own recordings coupled with those he commissioned have resulted in over 2,000 recorded hours; they represent a legacy of inestimable value to the Northern Territory, and an important contribution to the nation’s history. Francis became the voice of oral history in the Territory.
Despite the Northern Territory being the focus of his professional employment Francis’s influence has been extensive. Throughout his career and since retiring he has steadfastly contributed to raising awareness of the value of oral history within the community and the profession, and he has been generous in sharing his experience and knowledge with others.
Francis has also been active in the Oral History Association; on the National Committee for almost 20 years; on the Association’s editorial board since 1994; while Journal Editor for four years he introduced peer review and ensured maintenance of high quality standards and credibility; he managed the website for many years; updated the Journal’s index; and he has regularly attended and contributed to oral history conferences. Francis’s article in The Oral History Reader is used by students and practitioners alike. In 2007 Francis was honoured with the award of life membership of the Oral History Association of Australia. In retirement he continues to provide training and consultancy services.
Franklin (Frank) Arthur Heimans’ oral history activities began in the mid-1970s with documentary films for television, as writer, director, producer and interviewer. At that time there was little awareness of the value of oral history within the film and television community. Over the ensuing 35-year period Frank has produced twenty-five documentary and biographical films for television with a strong oral history component.
Frank’s is an imposing record – he has conducted more than 850 audio interviews with a wide cross-section of the community, people in the arts, religion, literature, music, theatre, education, medicine, architecture, aviation, sports, economics, politics, science, engineering, broadcasting, law, business and administration. He has produced eight documentary films for television with a strong oral history component, and as originator of the first truly Australian archival interview series, Frank produced 32 programs in the Australian Biography series.
He deposited his material with the National Film and Sound Archive following its establishment in 1984, with footage of the Australian Biography series being transcribed, timed, documented and deposited with Australian Archives.
Frank has given many lectures and presentations to OHAA conferences, community groups and local libraries and has presented at the IOHA international conference in Mexico. Since 2001 he has written on oral history topics for OHAA Journals and Voiceprint newsletter and he has often participated in OHAA workshops to bring knowledge, practices and skills to participants.
Frank was one of the first Australian filmmakers to carry out interviews on film and to then log, transcribe and archive the material. He also pioneered a prototype archive system for documenting video material which was subsequently adopted by the CSIRO and named ‘Frank’.
Frank has been a valued mentor and for many who feared new recording technologies, has made good sound recording appear effortless. As testament to the quality and significance of his work, Frank has won many awards.
For more than thirty years Janis Wilton has raised awareness of oral history within the oral history profession, amongst historians, and within the general community. She is the author of many books about oral history as well as those based on
extensive oral history research such as her ground-breaking Old Worlds and New Australia: the post-war migrant experience (Penguin 1984) and Golden Threads: the Chinese in Regional New South Wales 1850-1950 (2004), which was also the
basis for a major touring exhibition and an historical resource website.
Oral history has been integral to her academic teaching career. She pioneered the teaching of oral history as a university subject in the 1980s, and has inspired many of her students to pursue oral history in varied and diverse ways in their subsequent careers. She is a passionate promoter of the relevance of oral history to academic research and history-writing.
Janis has provided a crucial link between international oral history movements and the practice and theory of oral history in Australia. From 1998 to 2006 she was a member of the Council of the International Oral History Association and served terms as journal editor, Vice President and President.
An early member of the Oral History Association of Australia, Janis has served several terms on the OHAA National Council. From 1982-86 she co-edited the OHAA Journal and recently helped to transform the Journal into a publication for both academic and general audiences. Her list of oral history collections and organisations in Australia was published by the OHAA and was successful in raising public awareness of the institutional support for oral history from local to national levels.
She is a true oral history enthusiast. Through her active involvement in oral history organisations, community-based projects, university teaching and her own research and writing, she continues to inspire and assist people and local communities to capture the power and beauty of people’s life stories.
Michael Clarke commenced the Public Works Department’s Oral History program in 1991; he chaired the committee until retiring as Chief Engineer in 1992, and remained a member until 2000.
As manager of the Sydney Engineering Heritage Committee’s Oral History Program he developed policies, procedures and training for volunteer interviewers as well as undertaking interviews himself. Michael arranged for the master tapes, logs, biographies and related documents to be progressively donated to the State Library of NSW – they presently amount to 194 interviews.
Since the Engineering Heritage Committee became a member of the Oral History Association of Australia in 1996, he has been its representative. Michael’s volunteer efforts have contributed significantly to the conduct of oral history within the engineering profession. His work in developing the OHAA A Guide to Commissioning Oral History Projects has provided guidance for both oral historians and those wishing to engage their services.
Beth Robertson became the inaugural Hazel de Berg Award recipient at the International Oral History Conference held in Sydney in 2006.
Beth Robertson has made outstanding contributions to oral history in Australia since joining the committee of the Oral History Association of Australia (South Australia) in 1981, in which she has had a long and distinguished career. As Oral History Officer at the State Library of South Australia Beth has been an exceptional advocate for the crucial significance of oral history collections to Australia’s national heritage. She has been an inspiring mentor and her personality and enthusiasm has encouraged many oral historians to deposit their collections with libraries and other collections around Australia.
Beth is probably most widely known for the Oral History Handbook first published in 1983. She published the most recent edition in 2006 with an entirely new chapter on digital recording. The Handbook is the national standard for Australia.