Migration Voices Oral Histories

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Physical locations: National Library of Australia, State Library of Western Australia, State Library of South Australia, State Library of New South Wales, Migration Museum, Adelaide.

Migration voices are a defining characteristic of Australia’s story, dating back to the first European settlement. This set of oral histories records the voices and stories of migration to and within Australia since the late nineteenth century. They are held as a distributed national collection at five major institutions: the National Library of Australia, State Library of Western Australia, State Library of South Australia, State Library of New South Wales and the Migration Museum in Adelaide.

Oral History collections trace their origins back to the mid twentieth century and the introduction of portable tape-recording technology. Oral History collecting activity began in Australia at the State Library of Western Australia in the 1960s. The National Library of Australia began acquiring oral history recordings from Hazel de Berg in the 1960s and established its Oral History program in 1973. The State Library of South Australia established its oral history program in 1987 and the State Library of New South Wales followed in 1990. The Migration Museum on Adelaide has been recording oral history interviews since it opened in 1986.

The interviews have been collected or commissioned by the custodial institutions according to the conventions of best practice in oral history. Interviews are recorded with interviewees who have been identified as having the relevant personal experiences and credentials to tell their story. Interviews are generally conducted by subject experts, including historians who have specialised in migration history.

These oral histories illustrate the long history of cultural diversity through immigration. They tell stories of collective experience which are also deeply individual, unique and personal. They tell of trauma and triumph, adversity and adaptation; maintaining traditional cultures and becoming Australian. That interviewees intentionally recorded account of their lives and experiences for long term public access is a testament to their generosity, pride, sense of self-worth, and belief that accounts of their lived experiences merit not only telling, but keeping, for the nation. Their stories help the nation understand immigration and the value immigrants add to life in Australia.

Estonian Oral Histories 1952-2020

This collection, held by the Estonian Archives in Australia and added to this inscription in 2021, consists of recordings in English and Estonian of the experiences of Estonian migrants to Australia after World War Two, beginning in 1947. They were amongst the first post-war non-British migrants brought to Australia.  With accompanying documents the histories constitute a rich historical resource reflecting early post-war Estonian migration as well as the Australian experiences of the Estonian community. These migrants helped create a more diverse Australia, in contrast to the earlier predominantly Anglo-Celtic, non-Indigenous population mix.