“Collecting Stories from the Great War” – Bega Cheese Anzac Centenary Project
Last January Bega Cheese announced a partnership with Bega Valley Historical Society and the Bega
Valley Shire Library in a project to commemorate the centenary of the Anzac and World War I.
The project, “Collecting Stories from the Great War”, collected and published the stories of farmers,
factory staff and others involved in the dairy industry during and immediately after the First World
War. The Great War, as it became to be known, had a major impact on the region. Of the 1,100
people from this region who enlisted, 200 did not return.
The project involved some 35 hours of interviews with over 40 descendants of families involved in
the dairy industry during the Great War. Stories from these interviews together with images and
contemporary accounts from newspapers and letters have been uploaded to a website which will
be launched by Bega Cheese in time for the Centenary in 2015.
The stories have been organised around a number of themes covering recruitment and enlistment,
support for the war effort, keeping industry and the community functioning while the men were
away and what happened when the men came home. The material collected has been prefaced by
articles to put the stories into a historical context.
“The resilience of our local community in the face of global catastrophe is truly humbling,” said Mr
Barry Irvin, Executive Chairman of Bega Cheese.
“We are talking about a generation who faced war on a scale never before seen which, it is
estimated, killed 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians. Another 20 million were
injured. Over 60,000 Australians were killed and over 150,000 gassed, wounded or taken prisoner.”
“As if the war was not enough, it was followed by a global influenza pandemic in 1918 which
infected 500 million people and killed at least 50 million, including 10,000 Australians”.
“Despite this and the Great Depression in 1929 and a second World War in 1939, our community
not only survived but went on to lay the foundations for the globally successful dairy industry we
“The Bega Valley Historical Society thanks Bega Cheese for the opportunity to be involved in this
project and for their support during the project,” said Mr George Morrow, President of the Society.
“This project has highlighted the transience of the oral record. One hundred years after the Great
War anyone with direct experience of the war has passed away. It is only where a family member
with an interest in history recorded the family experiences that the stories survive. The project has
reinforced the need for the oral history of our community to be continuously collected and
Mr Irvin paid tribute to all those involved in the project: volunteers from the Bega Valley Historical
Society and the Bega and Candelo RSL Sub-branches, staff from Bega Cheese and Bega Valley Shire
Library, and most importantly those family members who agreed to tell their stories to future
This project was supported by a grant under the Federal Government’s “Your Community Heritage”
October 13, 2014
For further information please contact:
Melissa Balas Senior Environment & Sustainability Officer
02 6491 7777