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Oral History Awards Tell Our Stories

Yellow-eyed penguins and their conservation, a look into Westport life, Niue elders’ experience of living in New Zealand and union history are some of the topics granted funding in this year’s New Zealand Oral History Awards (NZOH).

“These awards enable people to tell their stories and ensure they are recorded for both current generations and those who follow,” Alison Parr, Senior Oral Historian, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (Ministry) said today.

“Nine oral histories have received a total of more than $55,000 in NZOH awards funding for projects which will make a significant contribution to understanding New Zealand’s history,” Alison Parr said.

“The NZOH awards committee was fortunate to consider a high calibre of applications and those selected will bring new insights into history of a diversity of groups. This year we are particularly pleased to see oral histories gathered from the Niuean, Samoan and Lebanese communities.

“Setup in 1990 with a $1 million gift from the Australian government to commemorate New Zealand’s sesquicentennial of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi these awards are for recording the oral history of New Zealand and its close association with other South Pacific countries.

“In the 25 years since the awards were established more than $2 million has been given to some 400 community groups and individuals,” Alison Parr said.

Administered by the Ministry applications for NZOH awards are considered by historians from across New Zealand and a representative from the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Oral History and Sound Archive.

The applicants experience and ability to complete the work is also considered when awards are granted. In some cases funding is for pilot projects and oral history training.

Project Overviews

An Oral History of the Samoana Rugby League Team (Otago, 1964-1967) ($3,000)

Formed in 1964 by Leota Lulu Lome the Samoana Rugby League Team brought together members of the Samoan working community and Samoan students from Otago University. Three time winners of the Otago League Premiership before disbanding the project will unveil the story of a small immigrant community that made its mark in a new land.

Coasters: Interviews with Westport Area Residents ($7,200)

Oral historian Julie Benjamin will interview six people in the community who were born or raised in or near Westport between 1926 and 1936. Set against a background of isolation when Westport was often cut-off by floods, slips and earthquakes the interviews will cover the childhood and teenage memories of participants.

The Hatching of a New Approach to Conservation ($10,000)

In 1987 the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust pioneered a radical new approach to species conservation in New Zealand with a charitable trust undertaking the management of an endangered species for the first time. Collaboration with a corporate, also a first-time, followed and founding Trustees will be interviewed about the formative years and what it means today.

The Lebanese Community in Wellington ($2,258)

Lebanese families have made a significant contribution to Wellington’s cultural diversity, social and economic history and special character.  Two older Lebanese women, now living in Auckland for family reasons, will be interviewed by social researcher Marina Fontein so their stories and experience can be added to the histories previously recorded.

New Zealand Society of Authors Oral History Project – Stage 111 ($11,922)

Eight oral histories with authors who are active members of the New Zealand Society of Authors (Pen NZ) will continue the documentation of events and issues through the eyes of contemporary New Zealand authors. Both the author’s contribution to Pen NZ, with many holding office, and their contribution to New Zealand’s literature scene will be a focus.

Rex Jones and Trade Union Leadership in New Zealand 1983-2000 ($8,000)

The years 1983 to 2000 saw some significant changes in the history of New Zealand’s political economy including liberalisation and deregulation of the economy and three changes of government. National Secretary of the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union, Rex Jones was also a member of the Federation of Labour and Council of Trade Union Executives. Other union leaders will also contribute to the project.

Takitaki Momotua, Vagahau Niue Trust ($3,000)

The Vagahau Niue Trust, based in Auckland, will undertake a pilot programme and talk with Niuean elders who arrived in New Zealand from the 1960s to 1980s to gain their experience of acceptance, the economic and political climate and the educational experience of their children and grand-children. Vagahau Niue has been identified as an endangered language.

Te Wharepora o Ngati Rangiwewehi: Weaving an Identity as Ngati Rangiwewehi ($7,500)

This project will record the history of Ngati Rangiwewehi weaving so the stories are not lost and the knowledge interwoven in the stories will be passed onto others. Weaving supports tribal language proficiency, environmental sustainability and strengthens tribal protocols and tikanga. A wananga will start the process.

VSA – Volunteers who Brought Back a Partner or Spouse ($1,837)

Building on previous oral histories this interview will tell the story of a couple who met in the Solomon Islands and how the male partner now spends time in New Zealand and back in his home country. The research will highlight whether the experiences of men coming to this country as a spouse is harder than it is for women.


Updated on 28th July 2015