Communications Minister visits NSW community radio station where bushfires struck


A community radio station in Braidwood, NSW was one of the first ports of call for Australia’s new Minister for Communications.

Michelle Rowland visited Braidwood FM – around 60 kilometres from Canberra – where catastrophic bushfires ripped through the community in 2019-20, and the station’s volunteer team broadcast 24 hours a day to keep the community safe.

The Minister says Braidwood FM provided a lifeline for local listeners during that time.

“When the bushfires blazed through the regions, community radio was a constant. Through the early hours of the morning and into the night, Braidwood FM was a conduit for crucial, urgent, local information. It broadcast the movements of the fire and helped the community stay safe during this devastating time.”

Gordon Waters, Braidwood FM’s Station Manager, says “For a small community station run solely on volunteers, we are grateful that the Minister took the time to visit our station. It’s the people of community radio that keep it going and it meant a lot to all of us to know that not only did the Minister know we existed, but actually came and saw our studio.”

“It was only due to the commitment and passion for our community and our station that kept us going for nearly 2 months night and day during the fires and we know that what we did saved lives.”

“We broadcast for as long as we could get information and some people had the radio on 24 hours a day every just day get the latest local update.”

The visit was welcomed by Jon BissetCEO of The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia – who says “We are very pleased that the Minister took the time to visit Braidwood FM. It shows Labor recognises the vital role community radio plays in supporting vibrant Australian communities.”

“We look forward to working with the new Government to ensure our stations are supported to deliver news and information to their communities.”

Braidwood FM had only just expanded its transmission range when fires threatened the town of about 1,600 people. In late November, a rapidly changing fire in Tallaganda National Park kicked off 14 days of near continuous emergency coverage.

Equipped with printouts of maps and their local knowledge, station volunteers put hourly updates to air from the Rural Fire Service, directly connecting listeners to the information source. Their listeners called in with updates and became active eyes for the RFS. For some, it was the only source of information and portable battery-powered radios sold out in town.

Community members came into the studio to drop off food and gift baskets to thank the volunteers. At the end of the long stint, one of the listeners went into the station to share their story:

“I was in Braidwood but I’m widowed, I was scared, and I’ve got a sister over in Farringdon. And I knew by listening that she was OK and that the odds were that we were going to be OK.”

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