Putting the soul back into Sydney
Sydney is about to hear black voices and black music on the radio permanently. The city's first permanent Indigenous station will be on air, at 93.7 FM, by the end of June - it's call sign 2LND (Too Live N Deadly!).
When it comes to media, we at Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation (Koori Radio's parent company) believe that only Indigenous people can truly represent the interests of Indigenous people.
If there's a single message that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have tried to communicate to the world, it's that we know what's best for us.
That message has stayed the same in our quest for self-determination across all areas of our lives - housing, health, education, justice and cultural maintenance. We'll keep sending it until the message gets through.
Can Sydney handle the taste of Black Australia coming at them Live and Deadly? For a long time the mainstream media has largely ignored, misrepresented or stereotyped us. A permanent radio license for Sydney's Indigenous community is well overdue. There's a network around the country of more than 100 Indigenous BRACS (Broadcast for Remote Aboriginal Community Service) stations, 20 community radio stations, a National Indigenous Radio Service and several regional networks like CAAMA, TEAABA and PACKAM.
In Sydney, Koori Radio has taken years of struggle to establish. But with more than 40,000 Indigenous people in Sydney, and estimates that by 2011 the population will be close to 100,000, it's about to service the largest concentration of Indigenous people in Australia. Radio is an appropriate medium for us. It can reflect our oral traditions, passing on knowledge through storytelling and songs, and maintain a sense of community for Indigenous people in Sydney, many of whom have come from all over the country to find work, education or medical attention.
At Koori Radio we also aim to reinforce our diverse cultures. We'll keep our listeners in touch with events happening in the black community from arts, to sports to protest action. We aim to inform, involve and entertain our people.
If you're tuning in for the music, you'll hear on Koori Radio the best of black and Indigenous music from around the world. Non-Indigenous listeners will also get to hear our perspectives on Indigenous issues. Hopefully Koori Radio will stimulate some debate!
It was Radio Redfern that set the scene for Indigenous broadcasting in Sydney. Then in 1993 Cathy Craigie and Matthew Cooke started broadcasting weekly on Radio Skid Row, using their personal record collections. Out of their own pockets they paid the incorporation fees for Gadigal (named after the traditional owners of the inner city area) and shortly afterwards secured funding for two staff and some operational expenses. They leased premises and began to pursue the dream of having an Indigenous radio service that was not just a narrowcast around the inner city.
Koori Radio went to air as an aspirant station for a community radio license, broadcasting three months a year from the upper level of an old terrace house on the corner Cleveland and Edwards Streets in Chippendale - the front window proudly proclaiming 'Koori Radio - Live and Deadly'.
Broadcasting from there was challenging. The atmosphere of the local area was transmitted across the airwaves to inner Sydney, complete with rumbling trucks and rattling windows faintly in the background. The place was, as ATSIC's former Public Affairs Manager, Aaron Ross, commented, 'held together with love and sticky tape'.
But it was full of soul. Being close to the Block in Redfern it became a drop-in and information centre for blackfellas in the neighbourhood.
When the terrace was sold, Koori Radio and Gadigal Information Service moved. We're still, temporarily, operating out of Marrickville's old hospital premises in Lilydale Street. From these premises Koori Radio undertook it's most ambitious broadcast, transmitting black voices into Sydney through the National Indigenous Radio Service during the Olympics in September 2000. For the first time Sydney residents heard news, views and voices from around the country from communities including Broome, the Torres Straits, Darwin and Townsville.
When Gadigal won the license on the 25th May 2001 there were night-long celebrations. It was the climax of eight years of effort and an end to the uncertainty of 'will they or won't they let us broadcast to Sydney'.
Nowadays when you walk into the offices of Koori Radio it's deceivingly quiet. The two full-time and one part-time staff working there, together with the help of the Indigenous members, broadcasters and FROGS (Friends and Relatives of Gadigal), have a big job ahead of them.
Koori Radio's new license has an enormous footprint - a possible audience of 2 million listeners from the Illawarra to the Hawkesbury and out to the Blue Mountains. When you tune into 93.7 FM expect to hear stories from Elders, interviews and analysis of the latest in Indigenous politics, travel to the Torres Straits with Ina Meriba Wakai, tune into Mullenjawakka's jazz program on a Sunday morning, hear voices and music from Indigenous people from all around the world and more.
Gadigal has effectively engaged key people and communities and maximised the limited resources available to provide a radio service that values, supports and promotes the initiatives, aspirations and talents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Sydney region.
We can always use your help too!
Nancia Guivarra, a former presenter of 'Awaye!' on the ABC's Radio National, is the General Manager of Gadigal Information Service (Koori Radio) and a member of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Scholarship Committee at the UNSW. If you'd like to become a FROG (a Friend and Relative Of Gadigal) and get involved in Koori Radio, call 9564 5090 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at: http://www.gadigal.org.au/. This article is reproduced with kind permission from Show Cause: A Journal of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, no. 7, May 2002, pp. 26-7. Show Cause is published twice yearly, aims to reconnect alumni and Faculty supporters and is available to all UNSW Arts alumni on request. Ph: 02 9385 172; fax: 02 9385 1520; email: email@example.com; or visit the website at: http://showcause.arts.unsw.edu.au/about.shtml#About.
Guivarra, Nancia, 'Too Live N Deadly', Evatt Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, June 2002.<https://evatt.org.au/post/too-live-n-deadly>