An Albury ‘townie’ set out to simply capture her mother’s life story in audio and in the four years since, found herself traversing the countryside gathering slices of 20th century agricultural history. CARLY MARRIOTT reports.
A professional writer, editor and adult educator, Dimity Brassil spent 20 years in the finance and legal sectors before pursuing the role she described as “a caring stranger with a microphone”.
Dimity, an avid podcast listener, came up with the concept when it dawned on her that she spent hours listening to the wisdom of authors, experts and famous people via podcasts but realised no-one was producing private podcasts.
“I had the skills as a professional journalist and biographer to record the stories of the people we love the most,” she said.
To this day, interviewing her own mum Anne was the hardest interview of all — but it was the springboard for A Lasting Tale.
“It can be hard to ask your own family members questions. I mostly interview people who are 85 and older and they have the most amazing stories,” Dimity said.
“A Lasting Tale records the life stories of our loved ones in their own voices.”
Before Dimity ventured into oral history recordings she thought of farming as something that happened ‘out there’ beyond her home town of Wagga Wagga and her current home in Albury.
But now, she can rattle off old harvesting techniques, can quote when droughts occurred and understands the impacts of cattle being devalued in the 1960s.
Dimity has created her own source of wisdom in producing other people’s life stories.
“The family farm, whether the family still owns it, or it has been sold, is a central character in their story,” she said.
The children and grandchildren who usually engage A Lasting Tale’s services are often unaware of the details of their elderly family members’ lives growing up.
“The simplicity of their lives is always a shock to the families,” Dimity said.
“They were a generation of people who lived with less stuff.
“Social gatherings involved a cake and a cuppa and a few beers.
“They may have lived 10 or 15 kilometres from town but that made for an isolated life in the 1950s.”
While Dimity and her team of interviewers are spread out through major cities and regional centres, it is the rural nooks that fascinate Dimity.
“When you interview someone from a farm, you get the history of that property,” she said.
“You find out how the first couple settled the land, how the enterprise grew, pivoted and persevered.
“You get an understanding of the challenges — floods, droughts, locusts, mice.”
According to Dimity there is a universality of themes that come through in a rural setting.
“Most of the tiny local schools that they walked to as kids are long gone.
“Footy clubs and tennis competitions played a strong role in the community, as did dances at community halls and the church.”
The economic and physical landscape of farming has changed drastically during the past century, with family members seeking off-farm work and the pace of farming rapidly changing due to technological advancements.
Dimity, rural observer and story collector, can see the value in those currently at the helm taking the time to ask their loved ones about the challenges they faced in the past.
Because despite the age gap, a hard day on the farm is a hard day on the farm and it helps to know that someone has been there before you.