Capturing stories of Busselton's past and its people through oral history

University of the Third Age member Janet Dickson, Busselton Oral History Group member Heather Hill, Richard Liston, UA3 president Joan Parke, Gwyn Cracknell and Frank Dickinson.
University of the Third Age member Janet Dickson, Busselton Oral History Group member Heather Hill, Richard Liston, UA3 president Joan Parke, Gwyn Cracknell and Frank Dickinson.

The Busselton Oral History Group spend countless hours recreating the region's past by recording candid interviews with prominent members of the community.

The group have recorded around 350 interviews and recently joined forces with the University of the Third Age to recruit new interviewers and were hoping more people in the community would be interested in joining them.

The community groups setup mock interviews with its new interviewers to show them what to do and what to avoid during an interview.

BOHG president Colleen Listor said there had been some really bad blunders over the years.

"We wanted to demonstrate some of these blunders by showing people how to prepare for an interview, how to prepare the interviewee for an interview so they can make sure their husband isn't bashing around the house while we are recording.

"If you don't do that someone could ring the door bell, husbands pop in, someone yells out, 'would you like a cup of tea, clang-clang or phones are not switched off.

"Grandfather clocks go off, we have so many of those on recordings.

"Stewart Bovell's oral history has a crackling fire in the background, which is nice I like it, but we are always trying to get rid of background noise.

"We also wanted to show interviewers how to get a story out of someone and how to keep encouraging them."

Dr Listor said their main purpose was to record interesting stories relating to the history of the area.

"We are certainly working on some interesting ones at the moment, one is with Helen Shervington who has played a big role in the community," she said.

"She was a McCusker and received her Order of Australia medal from her cousin, which I thought was rather fascinating.

"She used to live on Kent Street next to Mike Bignell, they used to bicker together in the afternoons and so on.

"We have collected Mike Bignell's story, the Bignells Motor Company and the sharabangs that used to go down to Caves House in the early days.

"We are also in the process of interviewing Jenny Sheehan who has just stepped down as chair of Busselton Jetty Inc, which was taken over by Barry House.

"He has given us his parliamentary oral history, which he made historical as well, we have made that one of our collection with cooperation from archives in Parliament and the State Library."

Dr Listor said the process to record an interview varied and some of the recordings were based on themes such as a series they did on the ANZAC Centenary and another for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

"We have just completed another series on more recent arrivals interviewing boat people, immigrants from South Africa and refugees from Sudan," she said.

"People who have come to Australia and decided to settle in Busselton."

University of the Third Age president Joan Parke said many of their members were already part of the BOHG and they shared a strong connection with the group.

One of the first courses the U3A ran was titled, 'Let's talk local history.' Ms Parke said, they tapped into the BOHG and have maintained that connection ever since.

If people are interested in finding out more about the Busselton Oral History Group they are welcome to attend their annual general meeting at 9.30am on Friday, March 13 at the Busselton Community Centre.

"We are hoping people who are interested in interviewing or transcribing can come along," Dr Listor said.

"We have a list as long as your arm of people to interview in Busselton and Dunsborough."

Anyone who is interested in listening to the recordings can find them at the Busselton Library, which will also be made available online soon.

For more information about the Busselton Oral History Group please contact Dr Listor by emailing