Busselton historian Margaret Dawson awarded OAM

Busselton historian Margaret Dawson OAM was recognised this Australia Day for her service to the community.

Busselton historian Margaret Dawson OAM was recognised this Australia Day for her service to the community.

Since 1985, Busselton historian Margaret Dawson has been interviewing people from all walks of life who have lived in the region and helped shape the place we know today.

Ms Dawson has created around 80 oral histories for the Busselton Oral History Group, the Nannup Historical Society and even the Nedlands library and primary school. 

This Australia Day, Ms Dawson will be awarded for her service to the community and given an OAM for her work which also includes the Settlement Art Project and Busselton Historical Society.

Ms Dawson said she was shocked and overwhelmed when she found out she would be awarded an OAM, and while she knew she had done a lot of work for the oral history group, it would not be possible without the help of a talented team.

“Those people are just as worthy, and you are only as good as the people around you,” she said.

“It is nice to get recognition but it is certainly not why you do it, it is only because I like to do it, and I get as much back, especially when you see people really happy.”

Ms Dawson said Margaret Tickle OAM started the oral history group more than 30 years ago and she became interested in joining after attending its first meeting.

“I thought this was something I wanted to do, I was interested and frightened, as we all were,” she said.

Ms Dawson’s first interview was with her mother-in-law, she only had to ask a couple of questions and her keen subject was talking away.

“That really got me going because I felt I could do it and it has just gone on from there,” she said.

History is in Ms Dawson’s blood, she became interested in the subject through her grandmother who was a keen historian and also has a cousin who became a professional.

“It must have been in my genes,” she said.

Her father-in-law’s grandfather also had strong ties to the region’s settlement days, arriving in Augusta on the Emily Taylor with other settler families.

“He used to come out to the farm every morning and talk about the old days. I was really interested but I had little children and was not in a position to sit down, I wish we listened more to what he said.

“His was such an early history, his grandfather arrived in 1830, a lot of his relatives are still around here. The second interview I did was with his cousin Mary Higgins in Margaret River, she was aged 90 years old.”

Ms Dawson recalls the interviews she has done over the years as “just precious,” especially the recordings where the sound quality was not as good as what could be achieved today.

When doing oral history, Ms Dawson said it was unlikely someone would make a historical discovery but was a social representation of who, what, when, why and how people did things. 

“Listening to how a bullock driver shouted to his bullocks would be different to just reading how he said it, you get to hear it,” she said.

“It brings it alive.”

A collection of the region’s oral histories are held at the Busselton Library.

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