The experiences of the people of Cobargo, Quaama and Nerrigundah during the devastating 2019/20 Badja Forest Road bushfire will be captured for generations to come in Australia's largest oral history collection.
The oral history project is a partnership between the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the Cobargo Bushfire Resilience Centre (CBRC), with support from the NSW Government Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund.
Dr Shirleene Robinson, NLA's director of curatorial and collection research, said it will be the largest project the NLA had conducted specifically on the experiences of people who have been impacted by bushfires.
This ensures that the impact and legacy of what happened will be recorded for future generations in Australia's largest oral history collection. By doing this, we ensure that what happened isn't forgotten.- Dr Shirleene Robinson, director of curatorial and collection research, National Library of Australia
Specially trained oral historians experienced in talking to people who have lived through difficult circumstances will interview around 60 residents from Cobargo and surrounding areas over the course of the year.
"They will help the interviewees work through very traumatic experiences as it is vital these are preserved for the future," Dr Robinson said.
The interviewees can control the access rights, namely who is able to listen to their story.
"If they want to restrict access for a period of time we will respect that," she said.
"The recordings will be available online and can be listened to by people anywhere in the world.
"We were the first in the world to do that," Dr Robinson said.
Dr Robinson said oral history had a lot of value.
"It allows a wide variety of people to tell their story in their own way. Not everyone has the opportunity to write a book."
It was therefore a more democratic way of recording history and telling stories as it can capture a much wider demographic.
"It is also very impactful when you can hear the voice," she said.
"It makes the experience resonate and connect in a way a book might not. To hear that is very special."
Dr Robinson said the NLA had a history of undertaking oral history projects "on important and often difficult parts of Australia's history".
It was a priority of the NLA to record the stories of the communities affected by the Badja Forest Road fire so it was very grateful when CBRC approached it.
"We thought that was the ideal way so that the community is involved and they see the real value in recording what happened."
The NLA has collected more than 55,000 hours of oral history.
It is Australia's largest and oldest collection, dating back to the 1950s, around the same age as oral history collections began in the US, Dr Robinson said.
"It captures people who were living in the 1800s."
Upcoming community information sessions about the project:
Learn more about the project at: Badja Forest Road fire oral history
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