29 April 2006

Voices of War

Voices of War is a recently published book of 21 extracts from the Australians at War Film Archive, a project which has recorded interviews with over 2,000 Australians who were involved, not always in a frontline fighting capacity, in many wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

The book only scratches the surface of the huge body of interview transcripts, which can be found on the Archive website.

While the project is undoubtedly of major importance some of the transcripts I've read have been very poorly proof read, especially many place names. For an example see this interview
with a South Australian WW2 veteran, where, among other mistakes, Port Noarlunga is transcribed as "Port Malunga", Aldgate as "Mooregate" and a place in the Adelaide Hills is described as "Birdum"(any suggestions as to what this might be? It can't be the former terminus of the North Australia Railway).

The same page also has a photo of what is stated to be members of a platoon of the "2/4th" battalion, which should be "2/48th". Many veterans and others, especially South Australians, would be appalled at this error.

Michael Caulfield, the editor of the book and producer of the associated TV series, acknowledges that the interviewers were overworked and underpaid. Even so it should have been possible to enlist some volunteers, especially some with local knowledge, to assist with editing.

Another issue is addressed in the website

Some of the details recorded here may be distressing to users and family or friends of the persons interviewed. Users should also keep in mind that some materials may contain offensive language, depictions of sexual matters or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a period or place.

The material presented on this website is the memories and reflections of the person being interviewed. The material is presented in good faith, but does not reflect the considered views of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) or The Australians at War Film Archive (AAWFA).

Any access that you make of this website is undertaken at your own risk.

I wonder what, if any, say the interviewees had as to what was included or excluded from the transcripts, and whether they gave informed consent to their interview transcripts being put on the web. I'm not not suggesting censorship, but maybe a bit more sensitivity about what has been posted on the website.

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