An Oral History Interview – How it works

The purpose of recording the stories of everyday Australians is essentially to create a meaningful and accurate historical record of life in Australia that will be available to researchers, family members, students and the general public for generations to come.

This is very rewarding work (I absolutely LOVE what I do), and an enormous privilege to record and document the stories of people from a huge range of cultural backgrounds.

Interviews are informal and no preparation is necessary. We take a ‘whole of life’ approach, meaning that we talk through family background, childhood, memories of growing up, primary school, high school, family traditions, relationships, interests and hobbies, identity, experiences, marriage, children, university years (if relevant), professional experience. It’s essentially a ‘walk’ through a person’s life experience. There’s no obligation to talk about any topic you’re not comfortable with, though we hope you’ll talk as freely as possible. 

Interviews are sound recorded in person and need to take place somewhere uninterrupted and quiet. I often come to people and do the interviews in their homes – otherwise, we try and find an alternative venue. 

Interviews (from set-up to finish) typically consist of between 3-6 hours of recorded conversation (with breaks taken throughout the process).

If possible, putting aside a 6-7 hour block is ideal so we’re not rushed. If not completed, we can follow up at another time. You will not be required to prepare anything prior to the interview, though having a basic family tree helps me keep track of your family’s story!

You will receive a copy of your recorded story from the library after the event and will have complete control over the availability of your story – how and when it can be accessed, and by whom.

If you’re interested in doing an oral history with me, I’ll contact you directly to have a chat. If, at that point, we’re both interested in going ahead, I will submit an application to have the interview approved by the library – so please be aware that until I have gained approval, I cannot guarantee that an interview can take place.


Interviews need to take place in person and cannot be conducted wearing masks. Hygiene and distance are both important and will be taken into consideration on the day. I am fully vaccinated with boosters, and as a precaution will RAT test on the morning of the interview. If you would like me to provide a RAT kit for you – I’m also very happy to do that. Any other concerns, please do feel free to discuss them with me! Your comfort is my priority.

Should COVID become a concern close to an interview taking place, I’m always happy to reschedule.



More about the NLA collections (National Library of Australia)

Documenting Chinese-Australian Stories


Below is an example of an oral history recorded in 2018. Maxine Godley interviewed by Rob & Olya Willis in the ‘Voices of the bush oral history project’. This is what the catalogue record looks like and also contains a link to the actual recording where you can listen online.

For more information, please email me (Ruth Hazleton):