Publications on the Australian Generations Collection

  • Thomson, Alistair. (2014) ‘Australian generations? Transformative events, memory and generational identity’, in Michael Boss (ed.), Conflicted Pasts and National Identities: Narratives of War and Conflict, Aarhus Universitetsforlag, Denmark,  pp 55-68.
  • Curby, Nicole. (2014) ‘Confession and Catharsis: Crafting a Life Story and Charting a History of Emotion’, Circa: The Journal of the Professional Historians Association, pp 53 – 58. Click here to access the article.
  • Puri, Anisa. (2014) ‘Oral History Ethics: the Australian Generations Project’,  INSITE Magazine, Museums Australia (Victoria), November 2014 – January 2015, pp 4-5. Click here to access the article.


Glory Boxes

IMAGE: Silvia Saccaro brought this glory box with her when she migrated from Italy to Australia in 1961 (courtesy of the NSW Migration Heritage Centre)
IMAGE: Silvia Saccaro brought this glory box with her when she migrated from Italy to Australia in 1961 (courtesy of the NSW Migration Heritage Centre)

The fifth radio program using interviews recorded as part of the Australian Generations Oral History Project aired on Hindsight on ABC Radio National on Sunday 13 July 2014.

This program charts the excitement and eventual decline of the practice of collecting household items in anticipation of one’s own home after marriage. Five women remember vividly the shifting social expectations around them as the world changed from the 1950s to the 1970s.


Australian Generations Conference

30 – 31 October 2014, Melbourne

The Australian Generations: Researching 20th Century Lives and Memories featured academic historians and industry partners who form the Australian Generations Oral History Project’s research team.

Professor Michael Frisch, the internationally renowned oral and public historian, delivered the Keynote Address at the public launch of the conference on Thursday 30 October 2014 at the State Library of Victoria. The conference continued at Monash University’s Caulfield campus on Friday 31 October. Australian Generations project research team members  presented a series of papers on project findings and about our oral history methodology.

Listen to the conference (soundcloud)
Conference overview
Photos from the conference and post-conference gathering
View program




Going Away to School

The fourth radio program using interviews recorded as part of the Australian Generations Oral History Project will air on Hindsight on ABC Radio National on Sunday 1 June 2014.

IMAGE: Postcard of Rockhampton Girls' Grammar School taken ca.1895 by J. H. Lundager (courtesy of Queensland State Library)
IMAGE: Postcard of Rockhampton Girls’ Grammar School taken ca.1895 by J. H. Lundager (courtesy of Queensland State Library)

Going away to school has been part of the education of a wide range of people in Australia. This program draws on the memories of eight people born between the 1920s and the 1980s, all of whom spent part of their schooling away from home.

The circumstances varied, from an elite boarding school to a state hostel. Their experiences reflect attitudes of the time, some of which have changed, while others persist to the present day.


Mother’s Turn


The third radio program using interviews recorded as part of the Australian Generations Oral History Project will air on Hindsight on ABC Radio National on Sunday 11 May 2014.

In this program, memory meets imagination to reflect on the changing nature of motherhood in Australia over the past sixty years.

Alongside personal recollections, we also hear how a selection of Australian poets have given voice to their ideas about motherhood.


Our People

The research team came together in a 2008-09 pilot project and combines the complementary expertise of international leaders in their respective fields.

Project leader Professor Alistair Thomson is a world leader in oral history theory and method (Thomson 2007; Perks and Thomson 2006).

All five academic partners have extensive oral history expertise and each has made substantial contributions to 20th century Australian social and cultural history: on family and domestic life (Reiger, 1985 and 2001); interwar women’s lives (Holmes, 1995); housing and urban life (O’Hanlon, 2002; O’Hanlon and Luckins, 2005); people and place (Holmes, et al, 2008); war and society (Thomson, 1994; Twomey, 2007); and migration (Hammerton and Thomson, 2005).

Kevin Bradley, an internationally renowned exponent of audio history recording and archival technology, is Director, Sound Preservation and Curator Oral History and Folklore at the National Library of Australia – the country’s most significant custodian of oral history.

Michelle Rayner is a prize-winning oral history radio documentary maker and Executive Producer of Social History and Features at the ABC’s Social History Unit – Australia’s premier producer of radio history documentaries.

Along with the research team, 20 interviewers from across Australia will undertake 1500 hours of life history interviews. The project has the formal backing and practical support of the Oral History Association of Australia (OHAA), and is strengthened by the on-going collaboration of a prestigious International Advisory Panel.



The concept of generations is one that has been debated by historians and sociologists for some time.

Karl Mannheim’s influential work conceptualized generation as ‘a social creation rather than a biological necessity’ (1952: 309; see Kertzer 1983): a birth cohort only forms a ‘generation’ if it is shaped by novel or dramatic historical circumstances and becomes identified in generational terms. But the precise way in which this occurs requires further research. For example, just how some ‘generational cohorts’ such as ‘Baby Boomers’ come to develop a shared consciousness and take an active historical role shaped by their specific location in time and space is not yet clear.

There is general agreement that generational differences in cultural ‘taste’ (Bourdieu 1984) and resources affect social change, and are significant in conflict and cohesion as well as in mobility and value transmission, but these differences and their consequences have rarely been analysed in any detail.


Crowded Houses, Empty Nests

IMAGE: A Fibro Home in Australia Circa 1940s

The second radio program using interviews recorded as part of the Australian Generations Oral History Project aired on Hindsight on ABC Radio National on Sunday 23 March 2014.

This feature goes inside that personal space we call home and opens the door on Australian houses and homes to discover the way we’ve lived domestically over the past eighty years.

In this program we hear memories from across the generations, alongside the views of historians, an economic sociologist and an urban policy thinker.


Jennifer Bowen

Radio Producer


Jennifer Bowen is a radio producer. Her first post was at Radio 2XX in Canberra, followed by 20 years on the staff of the BBC in the UK,  during which she produced live magazines for Radio 4 and arts features for the World Service (shortlisted for a Sony award in 1989).

Since returning to Australia she has produced over 30 features for Radio National’s Hindsight and Into the Music programmes; her series on the history of adoption received a bronze award at the 2011 New York International Radio Festival. She has produced podcasts for the Victorian State of Design festival and teaches radio journalism at Monash University. She has an honours degree in Philosophy from the ANU, and an MA in art history from the University of Sydney.


Fathertime: the making and shaping of fatherhood in Australia

radioThe first radio program using interviews recorded as part of the Australian Generations Oral History Project airs on Hindsight on ABC Radio National at 1pm on Sunday 3 November 2013.

How has fatherhood changed over the 20th century?

In this program we hear memories from across the generations, alongside the views of historians and sociologists including Professor Alistair Thomson (Project Leader) and  Associate Professor Dr. Kerreen Reiger (Project Researcher).

Image: ‘Father and Son Reunion’ Sculpture, Toronto Canada (Marc Falardeau)


Anisa Puri

Project Officer   

Anisa has a Bachelor of Arts (History and Journalism) and a Master of Public History from Monash University. She was a feature writer at a leading national newspaper overseas and has also completed a Public Relations writing course at RMIT.

She has been creating summaries of oral history interviews for the National Library of Australia over the last few years. Most recently, she worked as a consulting historian for a Melbourne-based heritage interpretation company.

She served as Treasurer of the Professional Historians Association (Vic) from 2012-2013 and is an member of Oral History Victoria.

She is delighted to be managing a project as innovative and ambitious as Australian Generations, which brings academic researchers and industry partners together to record, share and archive 300 Australian life stories.


Kerreen Reiger

Kerreen is an historical sociologist whose teaching areas have included changes in gender relations and families, qualitative research methodology, critical social policy and gender and sexuality in work and health care settings. Her published work has explored the extension of technical rationality to the household in Australia, maternity reform movements in post-war decades and the relevance of critical social theory to relationships in health care.

In recent years, her research has focused primarily on the management of childbirth; the impact of new public management on health services; inter-professional relationships in hospital workplaces; policies on overseas trained health workers; and public participation and citizenship claims and quality improvement strategies in health care. As she holds a visiting professor position from 2007-12 at Queen’s University Belfast, she is also strongly interested in health and welfare issues in the UK and Ireland.

She is currently working with Canadian colleagues on a biography of an internationally-acclaimed obstetrician.

Selected Publications

Reiger, K. and Lane, K. (2009) ‘Working together: collaboration between midwives and doctors in public hospital settings’, Australian Health Review, May

Reiger, K., Garvan, J., and Temel, S. (2009) ‘Rethinking Care: a critical analysis of family policies and the negotiation of dependency.’ Just Policy, 50

Reiger, K. (2008) ‘Domination or mutual recognition? Midwifery as the ‘Other’ of obstetrics.’ Social Theory and Health, 6, pp. 132-147

Reiger, K. (2006) ‘The neoliberal quickstep: contradictions in Australian maternity care policy’, Health Sociology Review, Special Issue, Childbirth, Politics and the Culture of Risk, 15:4, pp. 330-340

Reiger, K and Dempsey, R. (2006) ‘Performing birth in a culture of fear’, Health Sociology Review, Special Issue,Childbirth, Politics and the Culture of Risk, 15:4, pp. 363-373

Reiger, K. (2005) ‘Mothers in a Double-Bind: The Work of Being “with Women”‘, in P. Grimshaw, J. Murphy and B. Probert (eds) Working Mothers and Social Change, Melbourne, Melbourne Publishing Group

Reiger, K and Carroll, K. (2005) ‘Fluid experts: lactation consultants as postmodern health professions,’ Health Sociology Review, 14:2, pp. 101-110

Reiger, K. (2004) ‘Managing professionals: the emerging leadership role of Victorian Maternal and Child Health coordinators’, (with Helen Keleher) International Journal of Nursing Practice, 10:2, pp. 58-63

Reiger, K and Keleher, H. (2004) ‘Nurses on the market: the impact of contracting on the Victorian Maternal and Child Health Service’, Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 22:1, pp. 38-43

Reiger, K. (2001) Our Bodies, Our Babies: the Forgotten Women’s Movement, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne

Reiger, K. (1985) The Disenchantment of the Home: Modernizing the Australian Family, 1880-1940, Oxford University Press, Melbourne

Reiger, K. and Liamputtong, P. (2010), ‘Researching reproduction: intersections of personal and political’ in Bourgeault, I, Dingwall, R. and DeVries, R. (eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Health Research,Sage, London



Michelle Rayner

Executive Producer, Social History Unit, ABC Radio National

Michelle Rayner is the Executive Producer of Hindsight, in the Features Unit at ABC Radio National. Michelle joined the ABC in 1988, and has worked across many forms of radio broadcasting at ABC Radio National – from science through to performance and arts programs. She has also worked in the Features and Factual Dept at BBC Radio 4, and for BBC Radio Scotland.

Michelle has an MA in History (UTS), and in 1999 she won the NSW Premier’s History Audio-Visual award, for a documentary about the history of the Blue Mountains. Michelle has been involved in the production of oral history based radio programs, for ABC Radio National, for the past sixteen years. These programs are broadcast on Hindsight, and on Verbatim, the program which began in 1999, to mark a century of Australian history through the oral history archive.


Kevin Bradley

Curator of History & Folklore, Director of Sound Preservation, National Library of Australia

Kevin Bradley has worked in the field of oral history, sound archiving and digital preservation for just over 25 years, primarily for the National Library of Australia (NLA).

Currently Curator of Oral History and Folklore and Director of Sound Preservation, Kevin’s previous appointments include Sustainability Advisor on the Australian Partnerships for Sustainable Repositories (APSR), a DEST-funded partnership, Manager of the Sound Preservation and Technical Services, and Acting Director of Preservation at the NLA.

Kevin’s standing in the field is recognised by the positions he holds in peak bodies: He is currently President of the International Association of Sound and Audio Visual Archives (IASA), Vice Chair of the Technical Committee, along with Editor and contributor for the 1st (2004) and 2 nd (2009) edition of the IASA published “TC04 Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects”, which was launched at the British Library.

Kevin has held the position of President of the Australasian Sound Recordings Association, edited the ASRA journal for a number of editions in 2001-2007, and was a member of the National Film and Sound Archive Steering Committee 2004-2008.

Besides audio preservation Kevin has been extensively involved in the preservation of general digital objects. For a number of years he managed Digital Preservation at the NLA and was a member of the OCLC/RLG Preservation Metadata Framework Working Group that developed the OCLC/RLG “Metadata Framework to Support the Preservation of Digital Objects”.

At present, Kevin is a member of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, Sub-Committee on Technology, and prepared the two most recent UNESCO publications from that group. He is currently establishing a process to develop a sustainable repository based on the recommendations of the report, funded by UNESCO.


Nicole Curby

Nicole completed a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in history, at the University of Sydney in 2005. After travelling around Australia Nicole returned to study honours in history at the University of Sydney, completing in 2008. Her thesis examined attempts to regulate and reform women involved in prostitution on the streets of Sydney between 1908 and 1918.

Since then, Nicole has worked in a research capacity for NTSCORP (formerly known as NSW Native Title Services) where she was involved in the preparation of historical evidence for Native Title Claims across NSW. This role involved consultation and interviews with Traditional Owners throughout NSW, as well as archival research. In 2008-2009 Nicole worked on community and oral history projects with the Sutherland Shire Arts Council, and the Cronulla School of Arts.

Nicole’s research in the Australian Generations project will be focused on Australians’ relationships with place and space, giving particular consideration to the voices and perspectives of Indigenous Australians.


Useful Links

Here you will find links to national and international oral history associations, projects and collections using oral history, along with scholarly institutions and centres around the world. Do you know of others? We’d love to hear from you. Write to or tweet @aust_gen

Oral History Associations

International Oral History Association

NSW Branch of the OHAA

Oral History Association of Australia (OHAA)

Oral History Society

Queensland Branch of the OHAA

South Australian Branch of the OHAA

Victorian Branch of the OHAA

West Australian Branch of the OHAA

Projects and Collections using Oral History

Australians at War is an interactive website that compliments a television series that examined the effects of war on the lives of Australians and how this nation has been shaped by those experiences. The eight-hour series was broadcast on ABC TV in 2001

Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies Oral History Project

Bringing Them Home Oral History Project is a fulfillment of a recommendation from the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The National Inquiry recommended the recording and preservation, for future access, of the testimonies of Indigenous people affected by removal policies. 

Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants Oral History Project records the lives and experiences of people who were in care in Australia or who were sent to Australia from the UK and Malta under sponsored child migration schemes. The project also includes the stories and life experiences of family members of those who were in care, campsigners, supporters and advocates for Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, and people who worked in a home, orphange or other institution. 

History of Adoption Monash University project

Hurricane Digital Memory Bank

Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne

Memoro: Bank of Memories

Migration Heritage Centre NSW online oral histories

Mountain Voices is a collection of interviews with people who live in mountain and highland regions around the world.

Oklahoma Oral History Research Program

Oral History at the State Library of NSW

Redfern Oral History 

RTA Oral History Program

The American Century Oral History Project 

The Whole World Was Watching: an oral history of 1968 is a joint oral history project between South Kingstown High School and Brown University’s Scholarly Technology Group.

Tibet Oral History Project 

Virtually Dartmoor displays interactive visits to a National Park.

Voices from the Days of Slavery

Oral History Institutions and Networks

Baylor Institute

Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.

Columbia Center for Oral History

H-ORALHIST is an on-line network for those interested in studies related to oral history. 

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

The British Library Archival Sound Recordings

The Institute for Public History aims to raise community awareness of the importance of history and heritage by promoting events and publications that foster public knowledge of history.

USC Shoah Foundation Institute is a collection of visual history testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Kate James

Previous Project Officer

*Kate James was the Project Officer of the Australian Generations Project until November 2012.

Kate brings with her a degree in Communications (Charles Sturt University), a postgraduate degree in Arts Administration (University of Technology, Sydney) and extensive experience in project management.

After working in a variety of administrative roles for arts festivals and touring theatre companies in Scotland, Kate returned to Australia in 2005 to pursue a career that supports and promotes culture and education.

Recent roles include Public Programs Officer (National Art School, Sydney), Research Officer (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney) and Research Manager (Sydney College of the Arts).

Kate is delighted to be working on Australian Generations, a project that not only brings together established and emerging researchers in the fields of oral history and historical studies but also partners with two of Australia’s significant cultural institutions, the NLA and ABC, to give voice to Australians whose stories, until now, haven’t been told.


Get Involved in the project

What is life in Australia like for you? Have you lived in different places in Australia? What kind of work do you do? Have you come to Australia from overseas? Why? Has it been easy or hard? What moments in your life have been significant? In a new national project historians at Monash and La Trobe Universities, in partnership with ABC Radio National and the National Library of Australia, are collecting the life stories of 300 people living in Australia. We want to record the life stories from all sorts of people living in all sorts of places in Australia.


To be eligible you must have been born before 1990. If you agree to record your life story you will need to be available for up to five interview hours across two sessions. The interviews will be recorded at a time and place of your choice.

Expression of Interest

The project has selected 300 participants and is no longer accepting expressions of interest.

Interviewee Feedback Form

Have you been interviewed for this project and would like to send the research team feedback? Did you remember something after the interview and would like to add it to your record? Complete the feedback form.

National Library of Australia Oral History stories

You can listen to other Australian life stories on the National Library of Australia’s website.