Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History
The Oral History Association of Australia (OHAA) has established an award to recognise those who have made
an outstanding contribution to the cause of oral history in Australia over a considerable period of time.
The Award is not restricted to members of the Oral History Association.
To commemorate her pioneering work in oral history, the award has been named the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History.
Nominees must have made over a considerable period time, an outstanding contribution to oral history in Australia through one or more of the following:
- the raising of awareness of oral history within the profession;
- the promotion of oral history within the history community;
- the recording and documentation of oral history;
- the preservation and archiving of oral history collections; and
- such other contribution to oral history considered worthy of recognition.
In principle, the award is made biennially (except when in the opinion of the OHAA there is no nominee of acceptable standard) and the award is presented at the national Oral History Conference.
Nominations for the Award
- Nominations shall be in type on the prescribed form and marked 'Confidential'. Nomination forms can be downloaded from the OHAA website at www.ohaa.org.au and
this website: Call for Nominations and Nomination Form
- Nominations should present a persuasive case addressing the criteria and setting out the achivements and history of the nominee that will enable a comparative assessment to be made. They must be signed and dated by the nominator and while they should be brief, submissions may be up to three A4 pages in length.
- Nominations may be made by any member of a State Oral History Association or private person; there is no impediment to a person nominating themselves.
- Nominations which have been unsuccessful in any one year will automatically be considered for the next award, after which they will lapse.
This will not preclude the nominations being made again in subsequent years.
Closing Date: Nominations must be received by 5 pm on 12 July 2013
Post to The Convenor
Hazel de Berg Award Selection Panel
C/- Oral History Association NSW
PO Box 261
PENNANT HILLS NSW 1715
Past Winners of the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History
Frank Heimans was awarded the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History at the OHAA National Conference, Melbourne, 2011. Franklin (Frank) Arthur Heimans’ oral history activities began in the mid‑1970s with documentary films for television, as writer, director, producer and interviewer. At that time there was little awareness of the value of oral history within the film and television community. Over the ensuing 35‑year period Frank has produced twenty‑five documentary and biographical films for television with a strong oral history component.
Frank’s is an imposing record - he has conducted more than 850 audio interviews with a wide cross‑section of the community, people in the arts, religion, literature, music, theatre, education, medicine, architecture, aviation, sports, economics, politics, science, engineering, broadcasting, law, business and administration. He has produced eight documentary films for television with a strong oral history component, and as originator of the first truly Australian archival interview series, Frank produced 32 programs in the Australian Biography series.
He deposited his material with the National Film and Sound Archive following its establishment in 1984, with footage of the Australian Biography series being transcribed, timed, documented and deposited with Australian Archives.
Frank has given many lectures and presentations to OHAA conferences, community groups and local libraries and has presented at the IOHA international conference in Mexico. Since 2001 he has written on oral history topics for OHAA Journals and Voiceprint newsletter and he has often participated in OHAA workshops to bring knowledge, practices and skills to participants.
Frank was one of the first Australian filmmakers to carry out interviews on film and to then log, transcribe and archive the material. He also pioneered a prototype archive system for documenting video material which was subsequently adopted by the CSIRO and named 'Frank'.
Frank has been a valued mentor and for many who feared new recording technologies, has made good sound recording appear effortless. As testament to the quality and significance of his work, Frank has won many awards.
Janis Wilton was awarded the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History at the OHAA National Conference, Launceston 2009.
For more than thirty years Janis Wilton has raised awareness of oral history within the oral history profession, amongst historians, and within the general community. She is the author of many books about oral history as well as those based on extensive oral history research such as her ground-breaking Old Worlds and New Australia: the post-war migrant experience (Penguin 1984) and Golden Threads: the Chinese in Regional New South Wales 1850-1950 (2004), which was also the basis for a major touring exhibition and an historical resource website.
Oral history has been integral to her academic teaching career. She pioneered the teaching of oral history as a university subject in the 1980s, and has inspired many of her students to pursue oral history in varied and diverse ways in their subsequent careers. She is a passionate promoter of the relevance of oral history to academic research and history-writing.
Janis has provided a crucial link between international oral history movements and the practice and theory of oral history in Australia. From 1998 to 2006 she was a member of the Council of the International Oral History Association and served terms as journal editor, Vice President and President.
An early member of the Oral History Association of Australia, Janis has served several terms on the OHAA National Council. From 1982‑86 she co‑edited the OHAA Journal and recently helped to transform the Journal into a publication for both academic and general audiences. Her list of oral history collections and organisations in Australia was published by the OHAA and was successful in raising public awareness of the institutional support for oral history from local to national levels.
She is a true oral history enthusiast. Through her active involvement in oral history organisations, community-based projects, university teaching and her own research and writing, she continues to inspire and assist people and local communities to capture the power and beauty of people’s life stories.
Photo : Janis Wilton receiving her award from Jan McCahon Marshall, National President OHAA © Jill Cassidy
Michael Clarke was awarded The Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History, at the National Conference, Queensland 2007
Michael Clarke commenced the Public Works Department's Oral History program in 1991; he chaired the committee until retiring as Chief Engineer in 1992, and remained a member until 2000. As manager of the Sydney Engineering Heritage Committee's Oral History Program he developed policies, procedures and training for volunteer interviewers as well as undertaking interviews himself. Michael arranged for the master tapes, logs, biographies and related documents to be progressively donated to the State Library of NSW - they presently amount to 194 interviews. Since the Engineering Heritage Committee became a member of the Oral History Association of Australia in 1996, he has been its representative. Michael's volunteer efforts have contributed significantly to the conduct of oral history within the engineering profession. His work in developing the OHAA A Guide to Commissioning Oral History Projects has provided guidance for both oral historians and those wishing to engage their services.
Photo : Michael Clarke receiving his Hazel de Berg Award
from Hazel’s daughter Diana Ritch in 2007
© Suzanne Mulligan
Beth Robertson became the inaugural Hazel de Berg Award recipient at the International Oral History Conference held in Sydney in 2006.
Beth Robertson has made outstanding contributions to oral history in Australia since joining the committee of the Oral History Association of Australia (South Australia) in 1981, in which she has had a long and distinguished career. As Oral History Officer at the State Library of South Australia Beth has been an exceptional advocate for the crucial significance of oral history collections to Australia's national heritage. She has been an inspiring mentor and her personality and enthusiasm has encouraged many oral historians to deposit their collections with libraries and other collections around Australia. Beth is probably most widely known for the Oral History Handbook first published in 1983. She published the most recent edition in 2006 with an entirely new chapter on digital recording. The Handbook is the national standard for Australia.
Photo : Beth Robertson is presented with her
Award by Hazel’s daughter Diana Ritch 2006
© Cynthia Nadai
Hazel de Berg and her passion for oral history
Hazel de Berg offered her services to the Royal Blind Society to record for ‘Talking books for the Blind’. She chose to read Dame Mary Gilmore’s ‘Old Days, Old Ways’ and was taught how to use the reel to reel tape recorder. On March 18 1957 she visited Dame Mary in her Kings Cross apartment to invite her to say a few words on the tape. The ‘interview’ lasted 1 minute and 21 seconds – and Hazel was hooked! Interviewing on tape was to be her passion for the rest of her life.
Hazel was determined to interview other writers, novelists, poets, dramatists, journalists and historians. Prompted by Sir William Dobell’s just completed portrait in 1957 of Dame Mary she embarked on interviewing artists. She also interviewed actors, scientists, musicians and a few politicians. Before she was married she had been a professional photographer and she almost always took a picture of her interviewees.
In the early 1960s the then National Librarian, Harold (later Sir Harold) White, came to hear of Hazel’s endeavours. Because he had been introduced to oral history on a visit to Columbia University in New York in the late 1940s he encouraged her to place her recordings in the National Library of Australia. She was delighted that the Library would furnish a permanent home for her beloved recordings. Indeed they formed the foundation of the oral history collection in the National Library.
In 1971 Hazel was formally contracted to the Library to do 60 interviews a year. This she carried out so conscientiously that in 1984 when she died suddenly of a heart attack, she had recorded just over 1300 interviews. These have been listed and described in a special catalogue published by the National Library in 1989. All of her interviews are fully transcribed.
The Hazel de Berg Award is for excellence in oral history. Excellence is what she strived for. She was always interested in the process of interviewing and when asked many times which was her best interview she always replied ‘the next one’. That tells us a great deal about the woman and in addition encourages us all to keep on trying!
Hazel’s family has donated the beautiful glass sculpture which has now been awarded to three members of the Oral History Association of Australia, Beth Robertson, Michael Clarke and Janis Wilton. Just as Hazel de Berg's oral history collection is for all time so the presentation to the successful recipient will continue to be a feature of the national biennial conferences – forever.
where the large collection of Hazel de Berg's interviews is housed.