Diana Giese was born in Canberra in 1947. In 1954 her family moved to Darwin where her father, Harry Giese, served the Northern Territory Administration. Diana was educated at Darwin High School and the Australian National University. She then worked in London for major book publishers and for organisations such as the Policy Studies Institute and the Commission for Racial Equality. On her return to Australia she worked as a writer, editor, oral historian and broadcaster. From 1996, she convened public programs with diverse communities for museums, libraries and educational institutions. This work produced exhibitions and archives, books and media, videos and Web material with participants across Australia.
When Giese was growing up, Darwin was one of the most multicultural places in the country, with the Chinese community a presence from the late 1860s onwards. In 1991, she published The Ancestral Village: the Top End Chinese, Ourselves and Others in the National Library of Australia quarterly journal, Voices. This led to her producing for the Library her book Beyond Chinatown (1995) now an e-book, and this was followed by Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons (University of Queensland Press, 1997) which used as its raw material her interviews in the Post-War Chinese Australians project, and Courage and Service: Chinese Australians and World War II (Australian Chinese Ex-Services National Reunion, 1999).
Giese travelled round Australia interviewing Chinese Australians and giving talks about her work to local societies, universities and conferences, about the experiences and achievements of this important group. A collaborator and fellow interviewer, Warren Lee Long, wrote that Giese ‘has become a model in fostering networks right across the country so that projects on the Chinese history of Australia are given their best chances of success’.
In 1996, she initiated a project interviewing some of Australia’s leading publishers and in 1999 she formed the Khmer Community in Australia collection. She has also interviewed for the Australians of the Year and Law in Australia projects, and produced a group of interviews with some of this country’s leading scientists.
Beyond Chinatown (1995)
Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons: Voices of Today’s Chinese Australians (1997)
Courage and Service: Chinese Australians and World War II (1999)
The Library acquired the oral history collections produced by Diana Giese between 1992 and 2003. In 1997, it purchased her papers relating to the research for, and publication of Beyond Chinatown and Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons. Further papers, mostly relating to various multicultural projects, were received in 2010 and 2017.
Diana Giese has been responsible for initiating and organising three oral history collections, as well as contributing to several others:
Post-War Chinese Australians and Chinese Australian Oral History Partnership
These collections comprise 77 interviews with Chinese Australians, recorded between 1992 and 2002 in Darwin,Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Innisfail, Townsville, Broome and Hobart. They include interviews with some notable public figures, such as Professor Mabel Lee, Dr John Yu, Bishop George Tung Yep, Henry Nan Hung Pan, Senator Bill O’Chee, King Moo Fong, Helen Sham-Ho, Annette Shun Wah, Marjorie Ho, Richard Lim and Helene Chung Martin. Interviewees include pioneers and community leaders, businesspeople, artists and intellectuals, politicians, and members of the large Kwong, Chin, Fong, Yuen and Tong families.
Khmer Community in Australia
This collections consists of 6 interviews (19 digital audio tapes) recorded in Sydney in 1999-2000 with Cambodian refugees who have become community leaders.
Publishing in Australia
This collection comprises 14 interviews (22 digital audio tapes) recorded between 1996 and 2003. Interviewees include Ian Templeman, Brian Johns, Kathy Bail, Jane Palfreyman, Diana Gribble, Laurie Muller, Peter Debus and Stephanie Dowrick.
Giese has carried out a number of other oral history interviews for the Library.
The papers of Giese mostly relate to her book Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons. They include correspondence and notes of conversations with informants, transcripts of interviews, biographical and genealogical notes, correspondence with the publisher, drafts of the book, reviews, photographs and material on the launches of the book. There are also some papers on her book Beyond Chinatown, a notebook of Billy Lee Long, and four certificates recording the appointment of Liu Lung to positions within the Australian branch of the Kuomintang (1920–35).
The oral history recordings have all been individually catalogued and have transcripts and/or detailed summaries. Diana Giese’s books and articles are also available through the Library’s catalogue. The personal papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 9274. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-341276786/findingaid.
Giese, Diana, The Top End Chinese Experience, National Library of Australia News, vol. 5 (10), July 1995, pp. 17–21.
Giese, Diana, The Chinese Australian Oral History Project, National Library of Australia News, vol. 8 (10), July 1998, pp. 19–21.
First posted 2008 (revised 2019)