Personal stories of Snowy Hydro workers to be told in new film project
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Personal stories of Snowy Hydro workers to be told in new film project

"The seven years that I spent in those tents were the most magnificent of my life. The pay was good, and life was terrific because we didn't drink but we did smoke though. That was important to us."

Carlo Aggio was just one of thousands of people who put their blood, sweat and tears into working on the Snowy Hydro scheme.

Carlo Aggio is one of 10 former Snowy Hydro workers sharing their stories as part of a new film project.

Carlo Aggio is one of 10 former Snowy Hydro workers sharing their stories as part of a new film project.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

After fleeing from war-torn Italy as a refugee during the 1940s and coming to Australia, Mr Aggio began work on the project in 1951 as an assistant surveyor, helping to build trig stations across the mountains.

"We learned that surveying was a possibility [as a career] to sustain yourself. We lived in tents and we worked from daylight to sundown, but the hours weren't important," he said.

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"We had plenty of time to learn English and mathematics and learn surveying and it was a beautiful life. Life was really good back then."

While the number of people who worked on Australia's largest infrastructure project are dwindling - with many now in their eighties and nineties - their stories will live on as part of a new history project.

Carlo Aggio started work on the project as an assistant surveyor in 1951.

Carlo Aggio started work on the project as an assistant surveyor in 1951.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

The joint digital storytelling project run by Woden Community Service and Snowy Hydro will see 10 former Snowy Hydro workers share their story of their time working on the scheme.

As part of the project, participants will assist in the creation of a short film about their experience on the Snowy Hydro, helping to write the script, record voice overs and edit the film together. The films will be premiered at an event in June.

The project's artistic director, Jenni Savigny, said it was important to create a history of the Snowy Hydro using the participant's own words.

"You just get a personal sense of what it was like to be there, and what it meant to people's lives," she said.

"They formed lifelong friendships and so you get a personal insight and gain a greater understanding through the people's own words and images, which is very special."

Many of the stories being shown on film will feature photographs and documents collected by the participants during their time working on the scheme.

A challenge, however, was condensing years of personal history into just a 500-word script.

"Most of the struggles have been that there has been too much material, and it would easily be enough for a feature film," Ms Savigny said.

It was a challenge Mr Aggio was all too aware of.

"We were limited to 500 words, but for my script, I first wrote five or six pages," he said.

Participants are now in the process of editing their short films, and will retain the copyright to their respective works after the films are shown.

"They all have editorial control over what story is told, and that's really important and it gives an authentic voice," Ms Savigny said.

Mr Aggio said the project was a chance for many people to tell their own story of the determination and resilience as well as the success many experienced while working in the Snowy Mountains.

"That was always a part of me and that was my life," he said.

"There was no better place to be."

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.