Using poetry to capture the Aboriginal voice in oral history transcripts
Contributor(s)University of New England
KeywordsAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
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AbstractThis paper is a part of an ongoing research project I have been involved with since commencing my PhD at the University of New England. My interest in the documentation of oral histories, in particular my own community of Weilmoringle, has been the main focus of my concerns since becoming an early career academic in 2004. Although I left my community several years ago, I continue to hold a strong (and in some ways complex) connection to my traditional country and the people who come from there. Most of the participants I refer to in this paper are Aboriginal members of the community, although I hope to involve non-Aboriginal people from Weilmoringle in the future. I began recording the stories of members of my community in Weilmoringle in 2005. For the purposes of this paper, the community is both the research participant and the main intended audience for my research, and the core research method and source is oral history. My reason for conducting oral histories is that I believe Aboriginal histories and oral histories are intrinsically linked and for the most part have been largely ignored, misinterpreted or deemed as 'mythical' unreliable sources of knowledge by more traditionally text-based historians. In using oral histories, I am tapping into the millennia long tradition of oral storytelling as the way that Aboriginal people's history and cultural knowledge has and continues to be conveyed. My dilemma is that I intend to convert these oral and aural experiences into print as a key way to communicate with wider audiences the memories and stories shared with me. Embedded in this conversion is the need to get the text versions of my recordings right. My research participants are speakers of Aboriginal English and it is crucial that the written versions of the oral narratives read and sound like how the participants speak. It is also crucial that the orality of the interviews and the importance of oral history both as a form of memory and as a form of history are conveyed through the words on pages. Finally, it is important that the processes involved in consulting, interviewing, recording, transcribing and presenting are ethical and transparent.