Talking to People

And bringing their stories into history

Host – Ian McPhedran

Getting the story from the enemy

Peter Williams, in conversation with Alan Powell

Not everyone everywhere believes that Australian soldiers were always outstanding opponents. Peter Williams will speak of his interviews with more than 50 Japanese war veterans who fought against Australians. Peter found that many of the Japanese had a view of the fighting prowess of the Australian soldiers that would not be shared in Australia.

Remembering? Acquiring and using Oral History

Peter Williams, Ted Egan and Tim Bowden in conversation with Host Ian McPhedran

Interviewers seeking the truth about military events are often challenged by informants who say ‘I was there, I saw it, what I say must be right’. Very often, these oral history accounts are not right. Peter Williams, Ted Egan and Tim Bowden, with Ian McPhedran, discuss the perils of gathering and using the oral history of war.

Audience participation – questions and answers at the end of each segment.

Buy Tickets


Ian McPhedran

Walkley Award winner Ian McPhedran is an Australian author and retired journalist.  From 1998 until his retirement in 2016 he worked as defence writer for the News Corp group. In 2003 Ian reported on the Iraq war from Baghdad. In 2009 he took part in an Australian Defence Force ’embedding trial’ – which Ian described as a frustrating and time wasting process. Ian has written seven books, the latest being The Mighty Krait.

Dr Peter Williams

Peter Williams was born in Hobart. He has written a dozen books and websites on military history, among which are The Battle of Anzac Ridge, The Kokoda Campaign: Myth and Reality and The Korean War. At the Festival he will talk about the 50 interviews he did with Japanese Second World War veterans while he was working in Japan. Peter lives in Canberra where he has worked as a historian for the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs. He frequently visits Darwin to undertake research for the Darwin Military Museum. He is currently completing a book on the Battle of Buna-Gona.

Emeritus Professor Alan Powell

Alan has been the doyen of Northern Territory historians for many years. His contributions to Territory history, through his books, his teaching at Charles Darwin University and its predecessors, and his support of other historians, have been immense. In 1988 his book The Shadow’s Edge: Australia’s Northern War redefined much of the thinking about the war in the north and revealed a depth of sources previously undreamed of.

Ted Egan AM

Ted Egan was 16 when he first came to Darwin in 1949, intending a short stopover en route to South America where he thought he would find adventure as a gaucho. He went no further – the Territory offered more than enough adventure! He quickly demonstrated an empathy with Aboriginal people. He spent the next 25 years as a public servant, crocodile hunter, Native Affairs Branch officer, and school teacher, acquiring a Bachelor of Arts degree along the way. He listened carefully to everyone he met, soaking up remarkable stories and astonishing speech patterns. By the late 1960s he was in demand as a singer and story teller. In 1969 he wrote the song Gurindji Blues, a powerful commentary on the Gurindji struggle for land rights. A few years later he began writing and singing full time, with national popular success. In 2003 he was appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory, the pinnacle of the many honours and awards that have justly come his way; however, he considers that being involved in 1952 with the establishment of St Mary’s Football Club in Darwin, to provide an opportunity for Tiwi players to participate, was the highpoint of his life. For the centenary of the Great War he created the multi-media kit – The Anzacs 100 Years on, in Story and Song. Recently, he shrugged off an aggressive cancer. Now, he is busily engaged planning his 90th birthday celebrations in 2022 – and he is still writing, still singing, still telling yarns, still delighting everyone he meets.

Tim Bowden AM

Tim has had an amazingly productive life as a journalist, broadcaster and writer. In 1965 he worked in Singapore as a correspondent covering the ‘confrontation’ between Malaysia and Indonesia and the Indo-China war. He worked with the ABC in both television and radio – he became a national institution between 1986 and 1994 when he presented the Backchat program. He undertook major oral history projects, including Taim Bilong Masta (Australia’s colonial role in New Guinea), Prisoners of War: Australians Under Nippon, and Survival, about extraordinary survival experiences of some prisoners of war.

Buy Tickets