Industry insiders, broadcasters and radio fans answer the question, 'What does radio mean to you?', and share some of their prized radio memories.
This feature is part of the NFSA's Radio 100 celebrations.
'Radio has been a connective tissue for many communities around the world for decades; as an outlet for essential information, discovery, escapism and pure entertainment. Fast forwarding to more recent history, I think the impact of radio in the way it has held space for unique and independent voices, as it has been an outlet for togetherness, cannot be overstated. Post-COVID, many of us were looking for solace when we couldn’t be out experiencing life as normal. For me, community radio was an avenue of contentment and escape where I knew I could have access to storytellers, enriching music and nourishing conversations.'
Sosefina Fuamoli, music journalist, broadcaster
'To me, radio, podcasts and audio culture in Australia means so much: it’s the thing you put in your ears to tune out the world or feel more connected to it. It’s roadtrips flicking through stations to find the right song or the local weather report. It’s listening to my footy team winning a match as a kid. It’s a podcast shared best with friends or that makes you feel like the hosts are your best friends. It’s a shower while listening to the morning news. It’s my first boombox, walkman, iPod and phone. It’s pressing play and record at the same time to tape a song during the top 40 countdown in the 90s. It’s music and joy and my career. It’s stories through sound; in episodes, instances, songs or industry. It’s community, education and entertainment. It’s the past, present and future.'
Stephanie Van Schilt, producer at LISTNR
'Radio has been the soundtrack to my life: from Mum listening to Macca on local ABC in regional Queensland in the late 80s, to carefully taping songs off triple j onto well-loved cassettes in high school. Now our Sydney community radio station 2SER keeps us connected to the news and discovering new music. My husband, a bus driver, leaves home before my daughter and I wake, and he regularly texts the breakfast show host during his early shifts. We listen out with glee for his shout-outs and song requests.'
Clare Fletcher, author
'Radio makes me feel like my voice is powerful. That it’s worth listening to. I mean, who doesn’t like the feeling of being heard? As a listener my whole life, it was quite an intense experience being on the other side of the coin. Or mic, so to speak. The best way I can describe this feeling is by the moment after. The moment after I click stop on my recording. It’s a mere second or so. When the noise that once filled my headphones suddenly goes still. When my thoughts are quiet. When there’s just enough time for me to catch my breath. Then it’s as if I’m full of energy all over again. I’m ready with a newfound eagerness to share. To share whatever story I've just heard. And knowing that I can share a story, with my voice, that matters to at least one listener out there is what makes it powerful.'
Irene Diakanastasis, 2SER presenter
'I often think about a story from the SBS Greek team. At a street festival one day a listener was chatting to the presenting team before a live broadcast. She said she had to leave to go home to listen to the show. She knew she could stay and see it live, but 4pm to her meant sitting on her sofa with a tea and the radio on. Audio is enmeshed in our lives. Radio and podcasts fit into our routines, but there’s also something incredibly special about the connection they can create.'
Caroline Gates, Manager of Podcasts and Digital Audio SBS
'During my past three decades of service at SBS Audio, which broadcasts in over 60 languages, I’ve seen that radio is a beacon, hope and lifelong friend for the vulnerable. It is indeed the most candid, immediate and appealing medium which informs, educates and entertains everyone regardless of his/her background.'
Yang Joong Joo, Executive Producer, SBS Korean
'I really came of age when the intimate relationships audiences had with radio evolved to become even more direct through podcasting. The evolution from broadcasting to narrowcasting, it became about finding the specific things you cared about and allowing the like-minded people that share that passion to live in your ears.'
Alexei Toliopoulos, film critic and host of Finding Drago, Finding Desperado and Sunburnt Screens podcasts
'As a teenager, I fell for radio, staying up late to tune into triple j. Over the years, hosting ABC radio has made me feel like Australia is a rich tapestry woven with incredible conversations, characters and stories that we're all fortunate enough to immerse ourselves in. Live broadcasts can hold you in the moment. Radio has bound us together in times of emergency. Crafting audio documentaries across the globe has revealed to me the profound, understated power of a microphone to capture people at their most honest. If you want to witness someone's humanity? Listen to them.'
Marc Fennell, journalist, radio and television personality
'Training as a journalist, I thought I’d write features or perhaps do TV. But I found radio, and it’s become my enduring career love affair. For me, radio is the adrenaline thrill of being live with an open mic; its greatest joy is the one-to-one connection you make with each listener, and the theatre of-the-mind you create together. There’s nothing else like radio.'
Andrea Ho, presenter, journalist, AFTRS Head of Radio and Podcasting
'As a volunteer at SYN 90.7 at RMIT, I was lucky enough to get to host my own show. I called it folk ODYSSEY (dramatic, Michelle), and it ran on Sundays at 2pm. It was one of the first projects I worked on where it was just me. If I wasn't ready at 2pm on Sunday, there would be dead air. It was a powerful feeling, getting to talk to people and share something I was passionate about. It ended up being a fortuitous experience, as years later I became a podcast producer and have worked on over 4,000 hours of podcasting on more than 10 shows. My love affair with audio continues today, but it started back in that underground studio on Sunday afternoons, talking at the wall about 60-year-old folk tunes.'
Michelle Melky, producer at Amplify
'I’ve been in the media industry for 23 years, spending the first 3 years of my career training and working in radio at the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association in Alice Springs, before moving into the television industry. Radio is a vital platform and means of communication, especially for mob who live in regional, remote and rural Australia – providing the latest in local, national and world news, not to mention the weather – imperative to our farmers. It's also a great source of information, education, enjoyment and entertainment. When networks crash, the radio frequencies never fail. I loved my time working in radio, connecting to communities and speaking to people from all walks of life. Its where I started, where my passion grew to give First Nations voices a platform, highlighting and raising awareness on issues that matter to us. It taught me so much.'
Angela Bates, Screen Australia Head of First Nations
'I have collected a lot of radio equipment over the years. I now have six PKE CSC-1 broadcast consoles from various stations. The main one I use is Studio B from 1260 3SR, then it was used for Sun FM. But I also have a console from 3DB as well as two from 5AA that were also used for SA FM.
I have added some pictures. I also have some pictures of the Radio Australia Shepparton site after it closed.' [see image gallery on this page]
Nathan Delai, Victoria
'Besides radio stickers I also collect matchbooks. One of my categories to collect is matchbooks from radio stations as you see by the photos attached.' [see image gallery on this page]
Neil Abbott, ACT
'The radio was always on in our house. A friend had built one for us. We never had a television and I'm now grateful, because I read a lot of books. I remember disliking Brahms when I was home sick from school. As the youngest child in the family, I thought the Argonauts lived in the radio and my siblings teased me. A lot. As an adult, I had the great joy of DJing excellent music on triple j, just as we went FM. These days, ABC is perfect for driving.'
Cassi Plate, NSW
'I grew up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne in the 1980s where there were no trains or buses after 7:00pm. I was too young to drive a car and could not go out late at night. But my new Pioneer stereo system could transport me to the nightclubs of Melbourne via independent radio station 3RRR!
Every Friday and Saturday night, I would turn on my stereo and listen to live radio broadcasts from various nightclubs and discos. I could hear the latest club tracks being played live including imported 12" vinyls that only DJs could get their hands on! The DJ would be talking to the crowd between tracks but I was in my bedroom listening too.
Sometimes I would put a blank cassette tape in my stereo and press record to keep a recording of the DJ's selection that night – probably illegal at the time but priceless to me. Great memories of 3RRR and the Dance Till Dawn program who used their mobile technology to broadcast the latest club tracks into my bedroom.
PS - I will have to look for one of those old cassette tapes in my garage somewhere...'
Dale Stohr, Victoria
'My fondest memories are of Canberra community radio 2XX, once 1008 AM, now FM 98.3 – Australia's oldest community radio station (despite claims by others) and right here in Canberra.
Its volunteers campaigned for women's rights throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and had great live Splash Out women's broadcasts from Civic pool in the 90s, great fun; queer rights campaigns when it was unfashionable; they supported anti-apartheid rallies; supported Indigenous rights and the Tent Embassy – you name it!
Promoter of local and Australian bands before ABC's Double J, gave loads of people their kick-start in media, and continues to draw the community together today.
Truly people-powered radio! Love it.'
Mae Brenton, ACT
'My most prized memory was with a crystal set listening to the Ashes test cricket from England in the 1950s when my parents thought I was asleep. A schoolmate's father worked in the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory, so his father and he were both way ahead of the pack in electronics of that time. That interest rubbed off on me, and led ultimately to my becoming a RAAF officer instructor at the RAAF School of Radio, Laverton, Victoria in 1963.
That was when transistors were being widely incorporated into RAAF electronic equipment because of their much smaller weight and size than thermionic valves. I thought it was an exciting and challenging time to be in electronics. Hundreds of RAAF technicians had to be retrained, especially the 'black-hand gang' like armament fitters who were used to using blowtorches around RAAF equipment: a big no-no when transistors became involved.
I found myself teaching experienced technicians who were old enough to be my father, and not very happy being sent away from their families to barracks accommodation in cold Victoria and/or being retrained in how to do their jobs. It was an early lesson for a young officer in ways to manage unhappy subordinates. However, my civilian engineering friends in the Institute of Radio and Electronics Engineers (IREE) were very envious of we RAAF IREE members because they didn't get their hands on transistors for a long time after us.'
Neville Bleakley, ACT
'Two very different memories. First, many years ago on ABC 666 Canberra local radio when I interviewed John Schuman about his latest album, with the talkback turning to something very different. We were inundated by callers with an amazing set of honest and heart-wrenching conversations with veterans. He stayed for an hour afterwards off air to keep talking to people who just kept calling.
Second, on community station ArtSound FM 92.7, I led a team of people presenting a four-part special on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. There were loads of callers answering trivia questions, some from interstate and one text from overseas. And, being able to play music not heard elsewhere and hard to find. Both these programs were highlights for me as a presenter and were examples of radio at its best.'
Paul Conn, ACT
'When I stayed with my grandparents (and later in school holidays) from around age 4 in the mid-1950s, every day I would always stand on a chair next to the refrigerator (on top of which was the wireless) and listen to the river heights being broadcast on 2FC (always announced as being on 2BL, 2FC and all the regionals). That has never left me, something I always think back to.
I suppose the next most important was hearing the original broadcast of What's Rangoon to You is Grafton to Me with Russell Guy and James Dibble on 2JJ in the late 1970s.'
Peter Anderson Stewart
'My first memory of radio is of hearing my name read out on 3KZ in the early 1980's. My parents must have written into the station as part of a request segment. My request was 'It's Still Rock And Roll To Me' by Billy Joel and I was SO happy to hear my name read out on something as big as radio!
Later in the 1980's, my big thing was to get the weekly singles chart sheet at Brashs (a chain of record stores in Melbourne) and then listen to the great chart radio show, Take 40 Australia. I would then know the order of what songs I loved would be played on the show for me to record onto cassette. I'd then have my own version of the weekly chart to play for another week!'
Crispian Winsor, Victoria
'As a kid, my dad calling up the nightly quiz show on 2BL 702 (ABC Radio Sydney) and actually getting through! We huddled around the radio, turned down low in case there was any feedback through the phone (which was also in the kitchen, and attached to the wall). He almost won! We thought he was basically a celebrity.
I was in the car with my mum, on the hunt for a formal dress, when the news came over the radio: Princess Diana had died. It was one of the first times I ever heard my parents swear.
My daughter going to the ABC to record an episode of her favourite podcast Short and Curly, an ethics podcast for kids.'
Alex BC, NSW
'At the beginning of the 60s, in my early teens, I made a crystal set. It had its limitations, but it was FABULOUS!! A piece of stranded copper wire through my bedroom window, and tied to an egg insulator in our neighbour's tree for the antennae, and a piece of copper wire connected to our garden tap for the earth. My mother would check me in the late evening, to find me sound asleep whilst still wearing the high impedance headphones.
For all my life I've had a keen interest in radio communication of all forms, and continue to be an avid radio listener (predominantly the ABC) today. Even with our current 24-hour news cycle on television, radio seems to be more immediate and up-to-date. Tomorrow's news today! And you do not need to 'view' it. You can continue to be engaged, whilst still having an ear to the radio. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this celebration.'
Lance Maschmedt, WA
'Having grown up with radio from 1947 I was never very interested in TV. Even now, I haven’t had a TV for about 25 years. I listen to radio online these days but in 1950-60s Melbourne, I had 10 stations to choose from, including a few country stations. I remember being initially appalled as radio changed after the advent/onslaught of TV; however my teen years arrived, pop music dominated my life (even while studying) and I became an avid Stan Rofe fan. I never missed his shows on 3KZ. The other stations were easily ignored; the DJs played music their managements considered ‘acceptable’ whereas Stan played whatever he liked and his taste was impeccable.
On Australia Day 1966, I moved to Sydney to learn how to be a teacher. It was obvious that there was no-one on radio there of the calibre or with the freedom of Stan but I decided that the NewUW’s Ward Austin had a likable enough style. New-fangled talkback radio was also interesting. I’d dip into John Laws’ 2UE show whenever Ward played the Monkees once too often. Then I went to PNG to teach. Radio suddenly became shortwave - the BBC World Service, the ABC’s service to the inland and the islands (VLR6) and Hilversum. The only reasonable program on the local ABC’s 9LA was Breakfast.
As a kid, I’d often wished that I could listen to any MW station in the world and, of course, that wish has eventuated with online radio reception via internet.'
Denis Murrell, Macau, China
'To quote a modern movie cliche, radio 'you had me at the first hello'. I worshipped radio growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Each presenter's unique ability to communicate with me and to capture my attention was a source of wonderment. In the absence of visual cues and a means of reply, I felt that I was the only listener who mattered. So skilled are all radio presenters, especially those from my formative years.
Weather and traffic reports, time checks; what well-informed individuals these people are! Thanks radio for assisting me to plan my journeys to and from university and for keeping me company during late-night study fests. 3AW's Nightline with Keith McGowan gave me an insight into life's problems in the 'real world'. Commercial stations introduced me to a breadth of music genres much wider than that my parents' LP collection could provide or my weekly allowance allowed. The dial-in competitions allowed me to digress from learning textbook facts and delve into my cache of trivial 'whatnot'. Shortwave and longwave stations took me interstate and overseas to distant communities thus stimulating my desire to travel.
Thank you radio for helping to shape my character. Like you, I became a facilitator of learning, a high school teacher of 43 years. You indeed are my teacher.
As a 4th generation Chinese-Australian in the 1970s, the media was never a career option. Fortunately 'seasons changed' and now I am 'living the dream' as a breakfast presenter on community radio.'
Michael Gin, VIC
'The first song I can remember hearing on the radio was ‘Cruel To Be Kind’. I was at school, in the sick bay, probably about 6 years old. Can’t remember what the station was. I remember getting a radio for Christmas around that time, and I was glued to 2SM in the early 80s, back when commercial music was awesome. I discovered triple j in 1990 and my entire musical world changed. Finding triple j also meant discovering Roy and HG, two of our national treasures. And anyone who’s ever experienced a natural disaster will know just how important local ABC radio is in times of crisis.
I’ve volunteered and broadcasted at three different community radio stations. Each station was different, but with one common thread – a strong desire to reflect the culture of the community they serve. One of the things I loved, particularly at SWR FM, in Sydney’s western suburbs, was the sense of camaraderie we had. In the mid-90s we were an aspirant broadcaster, which meant we had to prove to the authorities that we were responsible and deserving of a licence. It was a joy to work with such passionate technicians and such creative broadcasters. I always look back fondly on those years. SWR has since been awarded a full-time licence, and I feel proud to have played a small role in making that happen.'
Jay Annabel, ACT
'As a teenager I really enjoyed listening to the radio stories before the 6.00 news. Later in the evening it was Life with Dexter, Pick a Box and Jack Davey's quiz shows. No TV for my family in those days, I listened on an old large Radiola radio.'
John Bury, NSW
'Waiting for the wireless to warm up each day, listening to Rocky Starr, The Goons and Yes, What. While my mother was alive and when I was home sick as a young child, hearing the Blue Hills theme.'
John Tipper, NSW
'For years my Mum was never without her ball-shaped Panasonic Panapet radio. It followed her from the ironing board to the kitchen to her bedside shelf. I was always charmed by the smiley face formed by the dials, plus the chain you could swing it from. I have such happy memories of her humming along to some crooner while ironing Dad's hankies.'
Karen McLoughlin, ACT
'Producing the 1999 New Year’s Eve radio program for ABC Radio Melbourne and Victoria from the roof of the Southbank building – enjoying the fireworks but wondering if the Y2K bug would shut us down!'
Caroline Quinn, ACT
'Everyone listened to 2UE and Ward 'Pally' Austen. He was the most popular by far, a favourite cry of his was 'a rickapoodie and a fandooglie'. We would all sit at Queenscliff Beach with our transistor radios tuned to Ward.'
Janette Mitchell, NSW
'As a primary school kid, I loved listening to The American Top 40, with Casey Kasem on Saturday nights on Canberra 2CA. Wolfman Jack is another favourite radio memory. Great voices, the pair of them. I often wondered what did they actually look like? I used to snuggle up, under my quilt on cold winter nights, eating hazelnuts and lollies in bed, with my transistor radio on my pillow, while I was meant to be sleeping!'
Miriam Pavic, ACT
'Not prized exactly, but certainly memorable, was hearing Simon Marnie on ABC Radio break the news that David Bowie had died.'
Louise Alley, NSW
'Memories of radio include my dad, Russell, listening to Kerry O'Keeffe's commentary of the test cricket, on his beaten-up, paint-splattered portable transistor in its weather-worn, brown leather carry case, or 'my wireless' as Russell would call it.
The 80s - listening to Jono and Dano, Doug Mulray and Andrew Denton. And then it was Mikey and Helen who ruled the airwaves for me in the early 90s when I was a bit more 'grown up'. Now that I'm old it's a lot of podcasts, but I'm still a triple j girl on the trip to work in the mornings.'
Melissa Bondfield, NSW
'School holidays on North Wollongong Beach with my Sony pocket radio listening to Ward 'Pally' Austin. It was late 60s-early 70s and you were very cool if you had the latest Sony radio.'
Jeanette Clout, ACT
'As a Dutch migrant girl of 11 in 1954 the radio helped me to learn English. My favourite serials which were popular then were D24 and Address Unknown. A popular music icon, Doris Day, gave me the idea I too could be a singer one day.'
Margaret Summers, via Facebook
'I listened to the Beatles' 'Love Me Do' in 1963 on my terrific National Panasonic 3-band stereo transistor radio which I bought on hire purchase at Peglars Hardware Store, Bayswater, Melbourne in 1962.'
Peter Bassett, via Facebook
'Discovering that in August 1924 my grandfather, Jack O'Hagan, became the first Australian songwriter to introduce his own work in a live broadcast at 3AR’s Collins Street, Melbourne studio. Musical News published a photograph of him singing ‘That Old Bush Shanty of Mine’ into the microphone. Jack was a rare breed – a popular songwriter who could perform his own songs brilliantly. His broadcast was an industry and personal game-changer. He was also a one of the first on board at 3AW as an announcer, singer and compere, had a stellar career and became Sales Director there, and wrote, produced and starred in many radio shows. Along the Road to Gundagai, Biography of Jack O'Hagan and Birth of Australian Pop Culture will be released in early 2024.'
Jo Gilbert, VIC
'My friend and I were listening to the radio and they were doing song requests. She and I texted in and asked for a song request and they chose to read out our message and play the song we’d asked! I remember us screaming and jumping up and down in my bedroom because we were so excited to hear our names on the radio!'
Tia P-W, ACT
'My favourite Australian radio station is Triple M. Home of Triple M Footy AFL, NRL and Triple M Cricket.'
Charlie Reynolds, Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland
'Radio has given me happiness, information, opinions, pause for thought. I smile when I remember the Let's Sing radio program we listened to at school. So many different songs from various genres were played. It was the best part of the week for me, racing to get my favourite spot on the carpet. Ready to listen and learn a new song. I found some books in an op shop a few years ago and they are put aside for my daughter to discover on my demise. She will wonder why on earth I would have such things. She will not realise how they entertained so many kids in school.'
Sharon O'Connell, SA
'Maybe not most prized, but very fond memories of The Argonauts in the 50s. Mac and Jimmy, stories, song, and The Muddle-Headed Wombat. I needed no second calling to The Children's Hour to have this contact with a wonderful world outside of my own. I still listen randomly to the ABC and find it a constant source of information and company.'
Linda Dawson, ACT
'Greenbottle: how could one miss that each night [radio comedy series Yes, What?]. Yes sir that was crazy! Bring back them shows please.'
Allan Farlow, NSW
'Digital radio means I can listen to my favourite programs on the other side of the country or the other side of the world. Radio plays a big part in my routine and tuning in while I'm on the road allows me to bookend my day with familiar presenters whose voices feels like a hug from home.'
Michelle Richards, ACT