Around ten participants gathered in the Hetzel Theatre at the State Library’s Institute building on Monday 18 February eager to learn about Ethical Storytelling. It was Oral History Australia (SA/NT branch)’s first workshop for the year, and the beginning of a very special year for the organisation, being its 40th anniversary. Catherine and I from the were amongst the attendees of the workshop which was led by freelance Adelaide-based writer May-Kuan Lim.
Many of us were working or had worked on projects that involved interviewing people and telling their stories, sometimes poignant, sensitive stories – to relay in a publication, website or exhibition. How can we ensure we do this ethically?
With the help of a power point presentation as well as some sample published passages to provoke small group discussion before reporting back to the main group, May-Kuan guided us through the duty of the writer and oral historian. We considered what made a good story as well as the ideals in relation to the subject before outlining the process for fact finding, and what one should bear in mind when searching for the story.
May-Kuan recommended that we should always have in our minds when telling a story ‘Would I want myself/my children portrayed in this way?’ Her main take away message was that it should always be ‘people before projects’.
May-Kuan graduated in Computer science from the University of Melbourne. She was working as a broadcast engineer in a small regional TV studio in Sarawak, Malaysia in the late 1990s when she realised she would rather be writing stories than broadcasting them. Since 2010 she has been teaching part time at Port Adelaide TAFE. Many of her students were former refugees and she was drawn to their stories particularly in light of the then current boat arrival debate. She started interviewing and writing refugee stories to try to understand why people fled and what life was like for them now. Her book ‘Australia: Island of Refuge’ was released serially online from 1 March. Her presentation also drew on her experience helping her father write his life story, Fish in the Well: A memoir of faith and aspiration in which he recalls his early years around the Malaysian tin-mining town of Ipoh, and his search for a way out of poverty.
Tombstone Tourists has been created by the Robe community to celebrate the stories of people who have lived and died in the popular seaside town and historic port of Robe. The name was inspired by the media headlines the project generated during its development in 2017.
The project combines a website and a smart phone app which make it easy to access information about people buried in the town’s cemetery, including both the heritage-listed historical section and newer sections established since the 1950s.
Visitors to the cemetery are encouraged to download the app so they can listen to the stories and see the faces of those buried, as they explore the graves, gaining fascinating insights into the lives of the men, women and children who have been part of the Robe community since the township was proclaimed in 1846.
Funded under the auspices of the Robe Local History Group, the project was supported by the District Council of Robe and the History Trust of South Australia. The content continues to expand, with stories and images relating to more graves being added. The History Group is also encouraging council to place markers on unidentified graves, which have been mapped using available records.
The cemetery is open every day so there are lots of opportunities to be a Tombstone Tourist in Robe.
People with family members buried in the Robe cemetery are encouraged to get in touch, and provide information so their stories can be added.
Communities interested in using the same digital framework to create a website and app for their cemeteries are also welcome to contact project coordinator Kim Kelly or call 0419 855 537 for further information.
The History Trust is excited to announce that Angaston & Penrice Historical Society and the Mount Torrens and District Community Association are the first two organisations to join the Museums and Collections (MaC) program. Both quickly put their hands up to complete the MaC membership process. Angaston & Penrice Historical Society is well established in managing archival and object collections and presenting the Doddridge Blacksmith Shop as a museum and for tours. Mount Torrens is in the process of establishing a community archives and interested in pursuing ways to make their collections accessible in digital formats. Both organisations are eligible to apply for a MaC project grant this year and we wish them every success.
The MaC program is relevant to South Australian community museums and collecting organisations at whatever stage of their development. Community groups that would like to talk about MaC membership are very welcome to contact us.
Among many activities, Angaston & Penrice Historical Society maintains the Doddridge Blacksmith Shop.