Oral histories

Oral histories

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Sydney people talk about their history, their neighbourhoods, their beliefs, their work, their businesses, their relationship with the natural world, and their myriad experiences of daily life in this city.

Sydney Oral Histories

Telling stories

Sydney Oral Histories showcases some of the City of Sydney's many oral history interviews. Our History Unit's expanding oral history collection reflects diverse aspects of the lived experience of Sydney's history. Each interview is presented in full and as an excerpt, in both sound file and full transcription forms, to allow for fully accessible browsing and research.

While some interviews are quite old and the sound quality is imperfect the philosophy behind the Sydney Oral Histories website is that the usefulness of an interview will be decided by you, with the site organised around 6 dedicated collection themes. See what piques your interest!

Newly uploaded interviews

Former artistic directors of the Sydney Festival share behind the scenes anecdotes and never before heard tales of some of Sydney’s most memorable stage performances. All living artistic directors of the festival share their personal stories in our newest oral histories collection, Sydney Festival through the eyes of its directors: 1977–2016.

  • Lindy Hume – 13 October 2015

    Lindy Hume was Director of Sydney Festival from 2010 to 2012. She was the first woman in the job and the also first practising artist. …

  • Brett Sheehy – 13 October 2015

    Brett Sheehy was Director of Sydney Festival from 2002 to 2005. He arrived in the top job after a six year Festival apprenticeship under Anthony …

  • Lieven Bertels – 13 October 2015

    Lieven Bertels is the current Director of Sydney Festival. Born in Belgium, he brought an international outlook to Sydney. Of festival makers he says "We …

  • Anthony Steel – 13 October 2015

    Anthony Steel was Director of Sydney Festival from 1995 to 1997. He reveals his struggle to retain a “serious art” focus for the Festival while …

  • Fergus Linehan – 13 October 2015

    Fergus Linehan was Director of Sydney Festival from 2006 to 2009. Born in Ireland, he was the first director of the Festival to hail from …

Sydney Oral histories also hosts occasional video presentations based on interviews from the collection.

Our city

Diverse neighbourhoods characterise the City of Sydney, each with their own personalities. Locals recollect the different places in Sydney in which they have lived, their significance, meaning and tranformations.


The City is host to dozens of organisations that represent various religious and secular creeds, convictions and philosophies. These interviews focus on the history of these organisations and their relationships with local communities, illustrating the cultural, religious and philosophical diversity that underpins the urban history of Sydney.

Shared terrain

Urban ecology, the relationship between the natural and built environments is explored in these interviews that look at native fauna, vegetation, weather patterns and environmental management within the local area.

Art and culture

People from the performing arts, cinema and visual arts discuss Sydney's rich cultural history.


All aspects of housing, residential space and homelessness in Sydney is covered in this collection, which looks both at the forces that govern housing availability and the myriad personal experiences of what private residential space means in an urban environment.

Open all hours

The histories of work, commerce and industry have been critical to the development of Sydney since its beginnings. The extraordinary range and diversity ofspecific jobs, industrial and craft-based manufacturing and small business within the City is presented in this group of interviews.

Hear the voices of Sydney people past and present

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this video may contain images or voices of people who have died.

Last updated: Thursday, 15 October 2015