Indigenous oral history

The State Library's oral history collection consists primarily of audio tape-recorded, structured interviews, in which interviewees talk about their lives, memories, particular events and experiences of the past. The collection contains numerous interviews with or about Indigenous people and can be found in the State Library catalogue.


The oral history collection contains many interviews with Aboriginal people speaking on a variety of subjects about their lives, experiences and families. The earliest recording, taken in 1963, is a message from the Ethel Creek Aboriginal Community to the Mckay Range peoples. Some of the more recent interviews include important Western Australian leaders such as Noongar elder and activist Norman Charles Harris interviewed in 2001 and leading Aboriginal education advocate May O'Brien.

Below are links to a small selection of interviews with Aboriginal people speaking about their lives, experiences and families:

  • Interview with Graham Farmer Interviewed by Steve Hawke
    Graham (Polly) Farmer talks about his life and football career.
  • Interview with May O'Brien Interviewed by Ron Chapman
    The first Aboriginal teacher in WA, May traces her family origins and talks about her influential career in education and particularly Aboriginal education.
  • Interviews collected by Bill Bunbury of the Social History Unit of the ABC for radio series such as, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" (Mogumber Mission), 'Background Briefing" (police and Aboriginal relations) and "Anybody Could Afford Us" (Aboriginal historical perspectives);
  • Kimberley Language Resource Centre series made up of 23 sound cassettes with Aboriginals of communities in the Kimberley;
  • Interviews collected by Anna Haebich of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University with Aboriginal people of the South West and wheatbelt

A number of oral history interview series have been produced as part of the research associated with a publication or special project:

Share your story

More and more Aboriginal communities are now sharing and recording their stories. If you or someone you know has a story to tell, consider recording an oral history. It’s a worthwhile experience that will preserve your story for future generations.

If you want to find out more about recording Indigenous histories, have a look at the following book available at the State Library or from your local public library:

Telling it Like it is: A Guide to Making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
by Penny Taylor, Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1992

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