Bloomfield River Oral Histories

Guest blogger: Lauren Erikson - Project Officer, Indigenous Library Services, State Library of Queensland

In 1996, Bloomfield Valley resident Camilla Darling conducted a number of interviews with local Kuku Yalanji elders and non-Indigenous settlers of the Bloomfield Valley, in an effort to document the rich and varied history of this remote rainforest region in Far North Queensland.

Billy Burchill (interviewee). OH 55 Bloomfield River Oral History 1995. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Billy Burchill (interviewee). OH 55 Bloomfield River Oral History 1995. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The interviews reveal the way of life of the subjects and their families, and speak to the interactions and relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal settlers in Bloomfield during a period prior to, and during, missionary involvement. Some stories capture the knowledge, skills and beliefs of elders, which have through time eroded with the change of lifestyle brought in by the influence of European people. Other stories reflect on the tin mining and timber getting industries, which were the two major industries on the Bloomfield, but have long since ceased.

Gerald and Mary Collins (interviewee). OH 55 Bloomfield River Oral History 1995. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Gerald and Mary Collins (interviewee). OH 55 Bloomfield River Oral History 1995. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Working with Camilla at the end of the project was another local resident, Lauren Erickson. Fast-forward 20 years and Lauren is now based in Cairns, working as a Field Officer with the Indigenous Library Services branch of State Library.

Knowing Queensland Memory (QM, a section within State Library) held the original audiocassette recordings of the interviews, Lauren contacted QM staff to investigate the possibility of making the collection accessible by the descendants and families of the interviewees (many of whom were now deceased).

During the next 18 months, QM organized the archival arrangement and reformatted the audio cassettes to a digital format, while Lauren worked with the Community locating next of kin and investigating photographs associated the interviews.

At last, over 20 years after the original interviews were conducted, these voices and stories can be shared with surviving family members and future generations, while playing an important part in our understanding of Queensland’s unique history.

The oral histories and photographs are available through the State Library's One Search catalogue.

Lauren Erikson - Project Officer, Indigenous Library Services, State Library of Queensland

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