By Lynette Hayhurst
This amazing group of dedicated volunteers provides an inestimable service to local communities in the Outer East.
Radio Eastern have a huge impact. They have a potential audience of 500,000 with approximately 23,000 tuning in daily. Like the grain of mustard seed, the station has multiplied over the years and provides broad-ranging services to many communities and individuals. Each year over 1,200 community groups avail themselves of free radio promotion of their programs.
A volunteer of over 30 years at the radio station is Russ Read, a much loved and respected presenter who shared with me unique insights into 98.1. Russ recalls that in 1991 he took early retirement as a surveyor with Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW, now Melbourne Water). He worked on the Thompson River Project constructing 21 miles of tunnel to bring water to Melbourne via Upper Yarra. Already a volunteer, retirement increased his involvement in the station. In that same year Radio 98.1 obtained one of the first community radio licenses in the metropolitan area.
The main improvements to the quality of broadcasts at Radio Eastern have been the many technology upgrades. After the devastating fires of 2003 that destroyed their studios, they purchased, with the aid of donations, a mobile caravan for outside broadcasts at community events.
These days the biggest challenge for the station is to raise enough money. Finances for this not-for-profit organisation come mainly from station members’ fees and local business sponsorships. A future goal is to expand the listening base by including migrant groups such as the local Burmese community. There is now also a weekly program called Oriental Mix with songs in Cantonese and Mandarin translated into English.
Russ and his wife Wendy last year celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Like many seniors they have faced personal challenges including for Wendy the needs of home care. Russ says that the main joy he gets out of volunteering is the feedback from listeners. Currently his weekly broadcast is ‘Thursday Around Noon’. Russ also says, ‘Thirty years and continuing is something I look forward to.’
Last year was officially the 30th anniversary of the radio station but due to lockdowns they were unable to celebrate. This year the station, with their new President, Dr Andrew Conway, has plans for the proper celebration of this wonderful achievement.
Check their website for details of upcoming anniversary events. Roger Broadbent’s show ‘Town Talk’ is currently featuring interviews with many of the 30-year veterans. Tune in to listen as they walk down memory lane.
Well done to Radio Eastern and keep up the excellent work in strengthening and connecting our local communities.