The Aboriginal Oral History Project – In Our Own Words

You can view the videos and listen to our elders stories.


In 2011 the Nagapawatti Aboriginal Women’s Group identified the need for a project that would allow our Aboriginal people to tell their stories from their perspective.

Our endeavour was to gather these stories without the influence of existing written history which is often written from the perspective of non-Aboriginal people. These stories build on the stories published in Wannin Thanbarran: A Record of Aboriginal and European history in the Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Area.

The wellbeing of the community is at the heart of the project and Muswellbrook Shire Council thanks the community members who contributed to the project through their guidance, recommendations and by generously sharing their stories.

 It is our aim to ensure that cultural connections are not forgotten and that we preserve invaluable stories for future generations. It is our hope that through the sharing of these experiences and stories there will be an enhanced appreciation and understanding between generations and communities.

We know that the Aboriginal culture is the oldest living culture on earth and that the Hunter Valley Area is rich in deep cultural landscapes, stories and practices. Through this book and the series of short films we celebrate Aboriginal people and culture with stories of caring for country, preservation of culture and the deep sense of belonging and how Aboriginal people from the area have adapted in a contemporary world - from enterprise development, job creation and economic opportunities, to social justice, dreaming and education.

What stood out on this journey was the love of the area and a commitment to a positive future for all Aboriginal people that recognises the past while remaining focused on a strong future for the generations that will follow.

The Aboriginal Oral History Project is the culmination of three years work for our team and wouldn’t have been possible without the support, assistance and advice of the many people who were involved.

We would particularly like to thank MACH Energy, Muswellbrook Shire Council Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee, the Elders and Community members who participated, Aunty Jean Hands, Noel Downs, Wanaruah Local Aboriginal Land Council, Cr Jacinta Ledlin, Kim Manwarring, Roz Thomson, Joanne Stead, and the 2 Rivers team of Lorrayne Fishenden, Makishia Felton, Roslynn Riggs, Pene Riggs, Emma Steed, Rebel Heart Photography, Impulse Print Management and a very special mention to Paul Bullen from Management Alternatives Pty Ltd.

Muswellbrook Shire Council, councillors and staff would also like to acknowledge the passing of Aunty Margaret Matthews and Uncle Barry French who were prominent figures of the local Aboriginal community and the Muswellbrook community, they were valuable contributors to this project.

In Our Own Words is available for purchase at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre for $5

Exhibition Date: 11 January 2021 to 2 May 2021


The Aboriginal Oral History Project is moving into its final stage of gathering stories of our Aboriginal Community Members.

2 Rivers Pty Ltd Production Team spent 2 weeks filming the stories of 14 Elders, cultural leaders and community members utilising the Muswellbrook Conservatorium of Music venue. People’s stories recorded ranged from stories of removal and dispossession to remembering when land rights came to Muswellbrook and hope for the future through our young leaders. The Project has an remaining 6 stories to interview before the stories are collated and made available for everyone through online digital resources as well as the production of a booklet of people stories. The Aboriginal Oral History Project has been a long time in the making the original concept was developed in the Aboriginal Community after the production of the Wannin Thanbarran a History of Aboriginal and European Contact in the Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Valley and the Project.

The Aboriginal Oral History Project is a joint project between Muswellbrook Shire Council Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee and MACH Energy Australia Aboriginal Community Development Fund.

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Top Left, Uncle Glen Morris, Top Right Uncle Garry Wright with interviewer Lorrayne Riggs from 2 Rivers Pty Ltd and Aunty Jean Hands, Bottom Left

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