A radio microphone and audio recorder sitting on a desk.

Australia's Diverse Radio History

Highlighting Diversity in the NFSA Radio Collection

Diversity in the NFSA Radio Collection
 Mel Bondfield

On World Radio Day, we explore the theme of diversity in Australia's radio broadcasting history.

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


The history of Australian broadcast radio goes back almost 100 years and the NFSA radio collection holds many examples of diverse radio programming from the past century.

We're highlighting here the pioneering women of radio in the 1920s and 30s, the showcasing of Indigenous and migrant talent on Australia's Amateur Hour in the 1940s and 50s, and Gaywaves – Sydney's first LGBTQI radio program – in the 1980s.


Women In Radio

The NFSA's Women in Radio collection celebrates a group of talented media professionals who gained prominence in an industry heavily dominated by men at the time.

Binny lum pictured with The Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr) in Melbourne, June 1964
Radio personality Binny Lum with The Beatles (Melbourne, 1964). Courtesy Bauer Media Pty Limited. NFSA title: 1219634

They forged successful careers as producers, directors, writers, performers and interviewers, and included the likes of Grace Gibson, Dorothy Crawford, Binny Lum, Lynn Foster and Queenie Ashton.

The following clip is an excerpt from the 1930s radio serial East Lynne from Grace Gibson Productions, broadcast on 2CH in 1939.

The production starred Queenie Ashton (as Lady Isabel) and Ronald Morse (as Francis Levison):

Excerpt from East Lynne radio serial featuring Queenie Ashton (as Lady Isabel) and Ronald Morse (as Francis Levison), 1939. Courtesy: Grace Gibson Productions. NFSA title: 332146


Australia's Amateur Hour

This radio talent show aired from 1940–1958, a period when white Australian voices were dominant and minority cultures were often overlooked in commercial media. 

However, Australia's Amateur Hour regularly featured Indigenous artists, including Jimmy Little, and Olive and Eva, plus other performers from a wide range of backgrounds including Greek and Polynesian.

The NFSA holds 60 episodes of Australia's Amateur Hour. The following clip is an excerpt from the final show which aired in December 1958 and featured an interview with Aboriginal artist and Western Arrernte man, Albert Namatjira:

Excerpt from Australia's Amateur Hour Ep.925 (1958). NFSA title: 572979



Gaywaves, Sydney's first gay and lesbian radio program, went to air at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in New South Wales. 

Gaywaves radio presenter Dietmar Hollman in the 2SER studio, circa 1987. 

Run by volunteers and broadcast weekly on community radio station 2SER from 1979 to 2005, the program was frequently groundbreaking in its reporting.

Gaywaves covered topics including HIV/AIDS, Mardi Gras, law reform, equal rights and police raids targeting the LGBTQI community.

The following clip is an excerpt from the very first Gaywaves broadcast:

Excerpt from the first live broadcast of Gaywaves, January 1980. Courtesy: 2SER. NFSA title: 820493

The NFSA holds more then 250 hours of Gaywaves programming, thanks to a bequest from the estate of radio presenter Dietmar Hollman.

You can find out more about the NFSA's vast radio collection on our What We Collect - Radio page.