Our oral history collection is growing

16 August 2013

ALGA’s oral history project has been very active in recent months, notably with the donation of the landmark John Lee Collection and through the recording activities of ALGA volunteers.

The John Lee Collection includes 34 interviews recorded by John in Adelaide between 1978 and 1980, representing one of the earliest and most significant gay and lesbian oral history projects in Australia. The recordings include 33 with gay men and one with a lesbian woman, with the recordings including one with recollections dating back to before WWI and eight with recollections dating to before WWII.

The John Lee Collection was transcribed shortly after the interviews were recorded, and John later used it, along with his notes on gay life in Adelaide, to produce his article, ‘Male homosexual identity and subculture in Adelaide before World War II’, published in Gay Perspectives, edited by Aldrich and Wotherspoon (Sydney, 1992).

Due to the transcriptions being available, the recordings themselves hadn’t been accessed for some time. An ALGA volunteer and audio engineer is currently undertaking digitisation of the recordings, after which the recordings and transcripts will be available to researchers.

Life member Graham Carbery commenced ALGA’s oral history project in 1983, and over the years he has conducted 33 interviews. This year he has resumed work on the project with Gary Jaynes. Recent interview subjects include:

  • Laine Isaac, who came out into the Melbourne lesbian scene in the late 1950s and was later a founding member of Sydney’s longstanding social group, the Pollynesians;
  • Jason Ball, a footballer in the Yarra Valley and Mountain District Football League, whose petition on in 2012 calling for an end to homophobia in Aussie Rules football prompted widespread community support; and
  • Michael Fenaughty, who at the age of 18 attended the first Mardi Gras in 1978, having met some of the organisers through the CAMP Youth Group.

With the help of friends, Laine Isaac has also donated to ALGA a collection of digitised photographs depicting camp/lesbian life in Sydney in the 1960s, and a video of the Karingal Olympics (1966) and Scavenger Hunt (1967). Nick Henderson has conducted the first part of two interviews with Kym Skinner and Vaughan Hinton, covering their lives up to 1980.

ALGA’s oral history collection now numbers about 200 recordings. Whilst the collection is strongest in Victoria, interviews cover the full breadth of Australia. Legacy analogue recordings are being progressively digitised, and as with new recordings they are also subject logged and ideally transcribed. Graham Carbery has transcribed seven interviews this year.

You can read more about additions to our oral history collection in our May 2013 newsletter.

ALGA gratefully acknowledges the support of friends of the late Naomi Cranenburgh, whose donations in memory of Naomi will be used to enable more transcription of ALGA’s oral history interviews.