Oral History Team
Some details of operations and other Army activities are not recorded in documents. This is especially true for contemporary operations, where planning and execution details are often passed in conversation between commanders and staff officers. Other important contextual information, such as quick orders and after action reviews, is also frequently passed verbally or handwritten in disposable notebooks. Some information, such as a participant's analysis of the reasons behind events, is often not recorded at all. Further, in an era where coalition operations are the norm, the Australian Army may not have timely access to important documents for its own research. Consequently, Army historians need to expand upon the available documentary evidence by using the participants' recollection of significant events. These recollections are recorded through oral histories.
Oral history is defined for the Australian Army as:
Oral history involves interviewing participants or experts in a particular subject or issue and preserving their judgements and recollections. Oral history materials (sound and video recordings, transcribed interviews, interview notes and memoranda) contain information not normally preserved in official documents and so complement, but not replace, official written records.
While called ‘oral history', this source of information has particular relevance to today's commanders and soldiers. In some instances, information from past operations or events can be reinterpreted in guidance for today in specialised doctrine or broader pamphlets. If exploited skilfully, oral history complements the Adaptive Army's learning loops by supporting organisations such as the Centre for Army Lessons, Land Warfare Studies Centre, Headquarters 1st Division and the Australian Army History Unit.
This web page will be developed to provide unit historians and Army museum staff with advice on the practices and procedures of oral history. The Defence Instruction (Defence Instruction(Army) 34-1 dated 30 July 2010) can be used to provide advice on matters such as method, security, permissions and copyright. The permission form included as Annex A to this instruction could also be adapted by units to assist their programs.
The following Defence Instruction provides guidance for the conduct of the Army Oral History Program.