Capturing Oral Histories on Wilyakali Country

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this article may contain the names of people who have passed away.

After several challenging years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, M&G NSW staff members have been thrilled to get back on the road and begin visiting and working directly with Museums, Galleries, and Aboriginal Keeping places across NSW. 2022 has seen staff in Bathurst, Tamworth, Northern Rivers, Greater Sydney, and the Shoalhaven.

In June, M&G NSW’s Training & Engagement Manager Dale, Communications Coordinator Victoria and Digital Creative Zanny had the privilege of traveling to Wilyakali Country to visit Broken Hill and Silverton.

The highlight of the visit were two oral history workshops led by Daniel Browning and presented by M&G NSW in partnership with Broken Hill City Library for M&G NSW’s Let’s Get Digital initiative.

Daniel Browning, a Bundjalung and Kullilli man, is the host of Radio National’s The Art Show. Since majoring in painting at university, Daniel has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and sound artist. He has been with the ABC since 1994, working across news and current affairs, including a stint as triple j’s news director. Daniel presented Radio National’s Indigenous arts and culture program Awaye! for many years and is currently editor of the ABC’s Indigenous Radio Unit.

On day one of the workshops, local Wilyakali community members were invited to explore stories with Daniel and discuss the ethics and logistics of recording First Nations oral histories. On day two, Daniel presented an open workshop to community members and local historians, including participants from Broken Hill City Library and West Darling Arts, which focused on the importance of oral histories, interviewing techniques, and the practical requirements of recording, editing, and storing sound.

In both workshops, participants were able to listen to several recordings from Daniel’s radio career, including interviews with Aunty Doris Pilkington, Archie Roach and Daniel’s own family members. These recordings served as reminders of the value that lies in capturing ‘lived’ human histories and the importance of First Nations oral histories to tell untold stories, question assumptions and challenge accepted narratives.

‘For years I’ve been a presenter on Awaye!, the Indigenous Arts and Culture Program and over that time I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of oral history. Oral history is critical because it humanises the past and gives us a sense of context…we can understand it as it was lived…It makes it much more human.’

We can’t wait to see (and hear!) how Broken Hill’s oral history projects develop over the coming weeks, months, and years.

Let’s Get Digital is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW as part of Arts Restart. The project funded fifteen digital projects in organisations across NSW and delivered training workshops and events to support digital culture within Museums, Galleries, and Aboriginal Keeping Places across NSW.

Previous PostOn the road with Storyplace
Next PostVolunteer Museum Grants – Round 2 Now Open