Ara’s life lessons and enlightenment interviewing older people

Ara Jansen today

Journalist Ara Jansen is a well regarded music writer in Perth. She has rubbed shoulders and written about high profile music identities from Pink to Jon Bon Jovi. But now she has turned her hand to interviewing older people who might not be so well known but still have an interesting story to tell.

Ara is among a Perth group of professional journalists, writers, published authors and biographers involved in A Lasting Tale which records private audio life stories for families Australia-wide. More than 40 interviewers conduct the interviews across the country.

A Lasting Tale started in 2018 when founder and journalist Dimity Brassil recorded the life story of her mother Anne, a mother of nine. Dimity was spurred into action following the death of her father and sister in a relatively short period. She sat down with her mother and captured her voice telling her story.

A Lasting Tale journalist Dimity Brassil with her mother Anne

To date, Dimity and her team across the country have recorded more than 1500 life stories. As well as the professional podcast-like personal audio stories, the platform also has a DIY interview guide for families wanting to interview their loved one themselves.

“I find this work really interesting because, for me, it is different after many years of talking to celebrities,” Ara says. “You spend about three hours with people; you start with their childhood, ask where they went to school and what their first memories are through to now.

“Most of the people are obviously older and have a whole life to look back on. I have been involved in the Perth side for more than a year. Most of the interviews are done in person, you go out to someone’s house, but there is also the capacity for someone interested to do it online.”

Ara says the people she has spoken with are obviously not celebtrities but there are many interesting aspects of their lives. 

“One woman I interviewed had met musician Dizzy Gillespie on a ship she was travelling on from New York to the UK when she was much younger.

“She said it was something that just happened, Dizzy was playing on the deck. I also discovered someone who inherited a baby grand piano used in Charlie Chaplin films. It’s interesting too because when you speak to some people they know what the high points of their life are, but others don’t consider anything is more important than anything else.

“It’s fascinating something will just pop out and you think, ‘how did you not think that’?, it’s really cool.

“I get to go into someone’s lounge room, set things up with mics and record the interview with quality audio. When I reach home, I send the file back to A Lasting Tale which turns it into a podcast which is given to families. We usually ask the interviewee what sort of music they like and use similar music in the recording.

“We get about 90 minutes, depending what comes up after being edited. My job is the fun part; interviewing people and getting them to dig around in their minds.

“I believe people often forget they have an interesting story to tell. When you sit down and start asking questions, calling on them to cast their mind back to the time they met their husband or their first job they come up with interesting stories and asides they might not have thought about in ages.”

Ara says a generation of people aged in their 80s and 90s are currently the last of the pre computer generation. 

They saw World War II and the Depression, really pivotal moments before the next generation, like mine, who have computers and technology.

“These stories will be lost when these people pass away if they don’t get recorded. Someone might tell you something in the interview that the family was unaware of; it’s not a secret but something special.

“For me, that is the fascinating part. It’s one of the reasons I love talking to people about their life, I love asking questions about how they have lived their lives. Apart from that, I get a lot of energy hearing other people’s stories.

“It’s being able to to learn about how they got through a problem or how they progressed in their career. It gives me ideas about how I can live my own life. If they tell you about their failures, you think, ‘that’s not a good one to try.’”

For details and costs of A Lasting Tale, visit