Surge in oral history training in WA

2020 has been a year of contemplation. Filled with troubling times for us all, the uncertainty of living with a pandemic has made us stop and think about our lifestyle and values. Memories of happier times play on our minds. Lack of movement with forced restrictions have evoked community spirit and awareness. With this has come time to ponder, recollections of the past and precious memories have been aroused, coupled with a feeling of wanting to get on with our aspirations. We now use new language that characterises this period of history in the making. Idioms such as before COVID, during COVID and after COVID has become part of our day to day vernacular.

With this fresh awareness and change of routine there has been a surge of people wanting to learn how to Record and Document their Community History and Oral History WA has embraced the new regime. More people have undertaken oral history training in 2020 than ever before. Four online courses were delivered which consisted of three by two hour zoom sessions. Session 1: Introduction to oral history and getting started, Session 2: Preparing for the interview and Session 3: The interview It was a new experience for trainer Elaine Rabbitt who had previously been of the ‘old school’ thinking that you can’t teach oral history online. However, what was missing from the online course was a recording workshop.

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As soon as intra state restrictions were lifted in WA and groups could meet together again Elaine teamed up with Doug Ayre (OHA WA immediate past present) and re-commenced the face to face nationally accredited oral history training in Perth. Weekend courses were held in October and November, with an extra practical recording workshop. The response was overwhelming, exciting and encouraging for the future of oral history in Australia. There is a new wave of people from all walks of life and ages interested in learning how to conduct professional oral history interviews. Features of the course include a session on cultural protocols and not only learning how to interview but gaining the experience of being interviewed. Students learn how to use professional recording equipment and they can bring their own recording devices. As the course is interactive and practical it is suitable for beginners, intermediate and advance practitioners, all those wanting to gain an accredited oral history qualification.

Oral History WA in partnership with Goolarri Media Enterprises, a registered training provider has delivered the accredited training since 2014. Elaine has developed the oral history training package for AHCILM404 Record and document Community History, drawn from the wealth of oral history teaching materials that are available in Australia and overseas.

The course is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the practicalities of oral history and gain nationally recognised certification. This is a stepping stone for further learning and possible employment opportunities.
Those who complete the workshop, an interview and their assessment workbooks, will be awarded their certificate issued by the Goolarri Media Enterprises (GME) Registered Training Organisation No.51278.

Student testimonies

A recipient of the state Library of WA’s Terry Campbell award for excellence said: “It was lovely meeting yourself [Elaine], Doug and the Workshop participants and to be involved with and to complete the Workshop training.

It was fascinating being shown the equipment, to have yourself and Doug explain the processes for Oral History Interviewing and then to be involved in the practical aspects.

A PhD student said: “This was an extremely comprehensive and informative course, well worth the expense and travel. All the issues we dealt with were important and stimulated lively debate and conversation facilitated well by the experienced Dr Elaine Rabbitt: that of ethics, of technology, of interview etiquette and so on. The assessments were also practical and useful, particularly drafting invitation letters/consent forms and also a mock interview which made me realise I had underestimated how complex the oral history interview exchange was. Although I had a strong grasp of oral history in theory, I came away much better equipped to do it in practice.”

A museum administrator said:” It was lovely to meet Doug and put a face to a name. So much talent between you [Elaine] and it is great to listen to different outlooks and methods of working. I really appreciate having the choice.

A local studies librarian said: Thanks very much for a very informative and enjoyable Oral History course last week. I have really benefited from all of yours [Elaine] and Doug’s experiences and I am hoping to be able to start recording people’s precious stories soon.

By Elaine Rabbitt

Image descriptions:

  • Broome ladies – Ladies with a Broome connection: Journalist Angela Albuquerque interviewing  Museum volunteer Gay Bridgement.
  • Emma & Luke – Student Emma Brand with Professional Historian Luke LeCras, adjusting the settings on the recorder to suit the location.
  • Jesse & Doug – Catholic Education WA sent Jesse Roberts along to the course. He had the honour of interviewing Doug Ayre.
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