Chapter 4

All the Voices: 1970s to now

Underrepresented voices are finally given a platform on the airwaves and create connection and community with every radio broadcast. A 12-week experiment by Gough Whitlam's government for multilingual radio is so successful it paves the way for SBS Audio. Gaywaves on 2SER becomes Sydney’s first gay and lesbian radio program when it goes to air in November 1979, a time when homosexuality was still illegal for men in NSW. Groundbreaking First Nations program Radio Redfern begins in 1981, followed by the first fully-run First Nations radio station CAAMA in 1982. And youth stations Double J and FBi Radio unearth new talent: both broadcasters and musicians. Audiences suddenly have so much choice – and this is only the beginning.

Image: Gaywaves collective members Vicki Dunne, Prue Borthwick and Dietmar Hollman, 1985

Warning: this page contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

All the Voices radio posters and ephemera

As radio started reflecting the diversity of Australian voices, it wasn't long until the artwork caught up too. From the 1980s, radio posters illustrated the range of languages and broadcasters on the air.

An illustration of a large group of smiling First Nations men, women and children.
CAAMA Radio poster for ‘The 8-KIN Network’

The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association’s radio station 8-KIN has been broadcasting since 1982. A crowd of smiling faces of family and community fills this large screen-printed poster by Redback Graphix. The station’s tag was ‘Aboriginal Radio in Aboriginal County’ and the imagery and text work together to succinctly describe one of the key goals of First Nations radio: presenting shows for community, by community, in the community.

A man with a portable tape recorder in a satchel and holding a microphone interviews two women on the streets of Melbourne in the 1970s.
3ZZ's Mario Piniti carrying a portable tape recorder

In this photo, 3ZZ’s Mario Pinti shows off his portable tape recorder which has the ‘3ZZ Access Radio’ logo proudly displayed on the front. Behind him is the Melbourne skyline. 3ZZ was a community supported, and ABC-owned, ‘ethnic broadcasting’ station, which allowed everyday people to present on air in their own languages. While the station closed after only two years – despite community lobbying to keep it open – 3ZZ laid the foundations for community stations such as 3ZZZ, which went to air a decade later.

A poster for the Wangkiyupurnanupurru Fitzroy Crossing Media Centre featuring illustration of First Nations symbols, boomerangs, hands and feet.
Wangki Yupurnanupurru Radio poster

In response to the changing technological and media landscape of the late 1980s, Aboriginal Elders from Fitzroy Crossing lobbied for a radio station to broadcast local news, stories and music in Language. Today, Wangki Yupurnanupurru Radio reaches over 40 communities. The station takes its name from the Walmajarri phrase for 'sending out a message'. In this poster, words in Language are scattered around the edge, brought together through Wangki Radio’s logo in the centre and a gathering of footprint motifs. Rendered in red, black, yellow and orange, the words and imagery imbue a strong sense of community and Language, ideas at the heart of Wangki Radio.

A radio event poster featuring two women lying on floaties in a swimming pool. One holds up a radio while both are wearing sunglasses and fruit headpieces while also holding bunches of colourful tropical fruits.
2XX ‘Splash Out' poster for International Women’s Day 1996

In the late 1990s, Canberra’s community radio station 2XX celebrated International Women’s Day with a live poolside broadcast which included bands, novelty races, poetry, self-defence lessons and ‘gossip and mythmaking’. This colourful photograph by Tina Fiveash promotes the event with a sense of playfulness and joy, as the models float in the pool: shades on, adorned in plastic fruit and holding a vintage radio set.

A selection of printed ephemera from radio station PBS 106.7 FM including subscriber discount books, subscriber card, sticker and program schedule.
PBS 106.7 FM subscriber kit and membership items

PBS FM is a community radio station based in Melbourne since 1979. The station's aim is to support local and underrepresented music across all genres. Much of PBS' finances come from paid memberships to the station, particularly during their annual radio festival. In return for their membership fee, PBS members receive several benefits including a bumper sticker and a card which provides access to discounts from certain retail outlets. The examples seen here are from the early 2000s.

A poster for radio show Tokyo Beat featuring an illustration of dinosaur-like Godzilla monster rampaging through a city, as well as images of Japanese people with their faces tinted bright colours to match the poster design
2SER poster for Rick Tanaka’s ‘Tokyo Hit Beat’

In the early 1980s, Rick Tanaka brought Japanese pop and rock to Sydney’s airwaves via his show Tokyo Hit Beat. An extension of Rick’s work on the cult triple j show The Nippi Rock Shop, which he co-hosted with Tony Barrell, Tokyo Hit Beat gave listeners a different view on Japanese music and culture. This poster promoting the show was designed and printed by Michael Callaghan from Redback Graphix. Among the cacophony of images, Rick is depicted up front, emerging from a collaged sea of Japanese musical artists, while Godzilla terrorises the Sydney skyline behind.

Diverse voices on the air

From the 1970s onwards, pioneering community and other broadcasters contribute to First Nations, LGBTQIA+, women and multilingual speakers hearing more of their voices on air. 

Australia’s first and only LGBTQIA+ community radio station broadcasts live from the 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Fiona McLeod and Julie Goodall from 4ZZZ-FM discuss sexist programming, gendered language and the lack of women on air in 1979. Image: 3ZZ Access Radio, 1975.

More than 12,000 of the records from the 2EA and 3EA (later SBS Radio) radio station libraries are now in the NFSA collection.

All the Voices tech inspection

As Australian radio evolved and diversified, so did the tech. Some will still remember waking up to a digital clock radio, taping directly off air, or switching their Walkman between AM, FM and cassette. This was tech in a transitory time before the switch to smartphones and digital.

A rectangular black portable radio and cassette recorder from the 1980s with speakers on either end and a tape deck in the middle.
JVC portable radio and cassette recorder/player

Community radio first went to air in the early 1970s and, by the 1980s, around 50 community radio stations were broadcasting across Australia. You could listen back on stereo systems like this JVC component system PVC-V55 from 1987. These types of systems integrated radio receivers with cassette recording and playback, making it easy to tape directly off air. The perfect mixtape was crafted through both luck and skill: hitting record right at the top of a song, and perhaps even taping your own radio presenter-like spoken introductions.

A black Sony Walkman portable radio and cassette player with headphones sitting on top of it.
Sony Walkman WM-F2015

Sony first released the Walkman in 1979. By the 1980s, the players were so popular that the name Walkman had become synonymous with portable audio players. The Walkman and its counterparts had a big impact on listening habits, enabling listeners more freedom and personal choice than traditional radio broadcasting. Released in 1990, the WM-F2015 model allowed listeners to choose between audio cassette tapes, or AM and FM frequencies.

A Sony FM radio tuner from the 1970s. It is a rectangular silver shape with a tuning dial and radio bands listed on the front in rows.
Sony ST-2950S FM stereo tuner

This is a Japanese standalone radio tuner from the mid-1970s. These were popular at the time as a component to add to existing stereo systems. Their popularity was later superseded by compact stereo systems which contained several pieces of audio equipment combined into one package. Due to the high manufacturing standards of the time, these radios are highly regarded and are still sought after by collectors today.

A digital clock radio from the late 1970s with AM and FM bands on the front, knobs on the side and an electric cord.
Goldair digital clock radio

Digital clock radios became very popular in the 1970s, allowing users to wake up to the radio in the mornings rather than a loud intrusive alarm noise. The item seen here was released by Goldair around 1980. This model is notable for making the radio bands more prominent in the design than the time display. Due to the rise of smartphones, digital clock radios are rarely made and sold anymore, making this item seem rather quaint. 

A collection of homemade radio equipment including a transceiver box with knobs and speaker, an antenna tuner, cords and a fruit salad tin used as an antenna.
Homemade radio transmission equipment

Robert Wesley-Smith used this radio transmission equipment to receive and publicise broadcasts from Radio Maubere, an East Timorese radio station run by the Timorese liberation movement, Fretilin,from September 1975 to December 1978. The homemade, clandestine receiver – complete with a fruit-tin antenna – was frequently moved around Darwin to avoid detection and prosecution as Wesley-Smith and other activists received, recorded and distributed the information heard over the airwaves.

A flat black AM/FM transistor radio in a carry case with an upright aerial.
Voyageur Spirix transistor radio

Portable transistor radios have been available for several decades in different shapes and sizes. However, this one is particularly small and compact. Not only is it battery operated but all of the elements, including speakers and an extended aerial, fit neatly within its own container. By the time that this item was released (circa 1990), the transistor radio was being replaced by newer technology such as the Walkman, which offered the option of listening to cassettes as well as the radio.