A tribute to Doug Ayre from OHWA

A tribute to Doug Ayre from Oral History Australia, Western Australia branch, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the field of oral history over many years.

Western Australia lost one of its most dedicated, enthusiastic and professional oral historians recently. Doug supported the ethos and philosophy of OHA well before he became a member. He was an active member of the OHWA committee with a stint of three years as President.

Doug was always open to new ideas and ways to record the history of organisations and professions. He held various leadership roles and demonstrated a capacity to listen to others as they expressed their opinions or thoughts. His methodical and calming approach to major projects, such as the 2015 National OHA Conference hosted by the Perth branch, helped to keep the committee well-grounded in its planning of general meetings, workshops, and the operation of the OHAA WA.

Doug was so well-known and trusted in oral history circles that his advice was regularly sought by both established and novice oral historians.

When Doug retired from his 48-year career as an electrical power engineer and manager in the energy industry and with the safety and technical regulator in Western Australia, he became more actively involved with sharing his oral history interviewing skills through training workshops under the umbrella of the Oral History Association of Australia (WA) Inc.

Doug established his business History Development in 2003 and by 2009 he was an interviewer for the National Engineering History Program with the responsibility of capturing the oral histories of eminent engineers to document their contribution to WA’s development and to record the changing role of engineers over the years. In 2007, Doug was one of several oral historians, tasked with collecting the stories of former workers at the East Perth Power Station. Copies of the interviews are held in the State Library of WA oral history collection.

He has made significant contributions to documenting the history of the State of WA by recording the personal stories of community members. These stories are added to the State Library of WA oral history collection.  As a matter of course, Doug encouraged others to contribute to the State Library’s resource available to researchers, family members and interested others.

To consolidate the work that, he had done, and for future reference, Doug wrote the Guidelines for the Engineering Heritage Australia National Engineering Oral History Program in 2010. See Guidelines for the Engineering Heritage Australia national engineering oral history program | Engineers Australia

In addition to his oral history project with nationally significant engineers, Doug recorded interviews for the OHAA WA with founding members of the organisation. In his capacity as curator and historian for the WA Scout Heritage Museum, he completed interviews with significant members of the Scouting association.

In 2009 Doug, partnering with Julia Wallis, began delivering the OHAA-WA oral history introductory courses and became one of WA’s most prominent trainers, delivering courses each year until 2015. His teaching style is well received by the workshop participants, and it is not unusual for Doug to receive a round of applause. When teaching the ethics of oral history Doug’s catch phrase is: “Do no harm”. This phrase resounds with the students who often write this phrase in their assessment answers.

In 2017 Doug volunteered to assist in the delivery of the nationally accredited oral history training course in Perth at the Scout Heritage Centre. Up to COVID times he continued to assist in the course delivery, 2 or 3 times per year. This course has enabled participants, from all walks of life to develop the skills and to know the ethical implications of conducting oral history interviews. Upon completion of the course, the participants receive a certificate verifying their capacity to conduct oral history interviews.

Doug was very proud of the fact that his wife, Mary is a transcription typist. He loved to announce this in the training workshops, and everyone was suitably impressed. We all wished we had a ‘Mary’ at home, that we could work with. The interviews became a combination of Doug and Mary’s work. What a team.

Doug retired as OHAA-WA President in 2018, but not before ensuring he had created a succession plan. He encouraged Kyra Edwards, WA’s first Aboriginal president to take on the role under his mentorship.

To acknowledge his service and commitment to oral history, Doug was awarded life membership of OHAA-WA in 2018.

Doug continued to enjoy sharing his enthusiasm and experiences of oral history interviewing. He donated his time and use of his personal recording equipment to support the individuals and not-for-profit groups to develop the skills and know-how of recording interviews so that they could soon embark upon their specific projects.

Doug was a natural mentor, because he was approachable. He regularly received queries about oral history and gave his advice. Not just to the other committee members but also to former students he has trained. Doug has been asked questions and advice from Town Councils, businesses and individuals. He does this for the love of oral history.

For all the above reasons, OHWA is proud to provide this tribute to Doug Ayre.

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