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Listening across collections: Migrant memories of health in archived Australian oral histories

A collection of three cassette tapes. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

This paper will explore the methodological and ethical issues arising from the reuse of migrant oral history collections in Australia, with a focus on health. It reflects on the methodology of an ongoing research project, ‘Healthy Citizens? Migrant Identity and Constructions of Health in Post-War Australia’, funded by the Wellcome Trust.  

Two collections from the researcher’s own secondary analysis are presented as case studies, one from Melbourne in the late 1970s, and the other from Sydney in the early 1980s. Through comparing and connecting a small-scale community-engaged project, and Australia’s first professional oral history collection, the article posits that it is possible to listen not only ‘with’, but ‘across collections’. Listening across collections is a particularly valuable approach to histories of migration and health, both areas in which migrant and/or patient voices are rarely captured in ‘traditional’ historical records. 


Dr Eureka Henrich is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, with research interests in histories of migration, health, heritage, and memory. Her latest book, with Alexandra Dellios, is Migrant, Multicultural and Diasporic Heritage: Beyond and Between Borders (Routledge 2020). Eureka is currently writing a history of post-war migration to Australia through the lens of health, based on the research undertaken for her Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Medical Humanities (2014-19). She originally hails from Sydney, Australia (but holds no grudges against Melbourne). 


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