Oral History Unit

In 1979 the Northern Territory Government recognised there were many individuals whose recollections of life and time in the Territory should be preserved. So an oral history program was created within the Department of the Chief Minister.

In 1985 a unit within the Northern Territory Archives Service (NTAS) became responsible for this program. 

Since then over 2,300 sound recordings of interviews have been deposited with the NTAS and the collection continues to grow. 

A printed transcript is available for many of these interviews.

Many of the people interviewed have also deposited documents or photographs with their spoken memories. 

Read more in the Oral History PDF (493.1 KB).

Aims of the Oral History Unit

The Oral History Unit aims to develop oral history resources for research purposes.

The unit gives professional advice to help with private and community oral history projects. 

The unit can help with the loan of recording equipment, advice on access agreements with interviewees, and custody and preservation of finalised oral history projects.


The unit has collected interviews with people from diverse backgrounds, from stock-hands to former Administrators.

Interviews cover recollections from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day.

The collection includes many topics, but is particularly strong in the following areas: 

  • the Second World War, particularly the bombing of Darwin 
  • the history of the pastoral industry 
  • the development of regional centres
  • life in remote or isolated towns and settlements
  • Cyclone Tracy.

Interviews in the NTAS collection come from a variety of sources. 

Northern Territory History Grant projects, approved volunteer/community oral history projects, Northern Territory Government agency projects and the NTAS oral history program.

The NTAS oral history program welcomes oral history interview nominations from researchers and the community. 

Use the Oral History Program nomination form included in the Oral History Unit information leaflet above to tell NTAS of potential interviewees.

Oral history nominations are considered by the NTAS Oral History Advisory Committee every six months.

The committee considers the nominations on historical merit and whether they add to the strengths of the oral history collection and/or offer new understandings of Territory history.

Selected interviews are conducted by the Oral History Unit as soon as they can be arranged with the interviewees.

Searching oral histories

NTAS has a searchable index of oral history interviews in the collection. You can search by name, topic, place or event.

Search Oral Histories
You can also search for oral histories in Archives Navigator using the interviewee's surname.

The NTAS Oral History Unit works with other programs throughout Australia, particularly where these have material relevant to the Northern Territory.

Go to the Oral History Australia website for more information about the various programs in Australia.

Accessing oral histories

You can access oral history transcripts or sound recordings in the reading rooms at the NTAS in Darwin or Alice Springs.

Research access to oral history interviews is set by the interviewee's conditions in a written access and rights agreement. 

Most oral histories are open for research. 

Some may have restrictions placed on their access until a given time, or in some cases the interviewee's written permission is needed to access the archives. In this case reference staff will help you.

To publish, exhibit or broadcast oral histories, you may need permission. Reference staff can advise you on permission to publish.

Copying of oral history materials is subject to conditions of access and provisions relating to copyright. You can get details of charges for copies from the reference staff.

Use of oral histories in research 

For an example of how the oral history collection can enrich your research, see Victoria Haskins' article 'The beautiful boys – Aboriginal houseboys in Darwin'.

Victoria found a wealth of information in the archives' oral history collection for her research about Aboriginal houseboys in Darwin in the first half of the twentieth century.

Last updated: 20 April 2016

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