I grew up with Radio Australia. When I was little, my family tuned in to hear the news from ‘home’ on the radio in our lounge room in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
Back in Australia, as a teenager I did work experience in the Indonesian section of Radio Australia at its headquarters in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood. That’s me at the desk in the photo. I can’t remember the name of the gentleman with me but I remember him being very patient and speaking Indonesian really slowly for my benefit.
I spent most of my work experience week timing B sides of singles (it was the 80s – the world was analogue). One record I had to time was a Monty Python single. The A side was ‘I like Chinese’ and somebody had scrawled across the label “banned in Indonesia – don’t play”.
As an adult, I discovered Radio Australia’s ‘Asia Pacific’ program rebroadcast in Australia on ABC’s Radio National. It moved around the grid from late at night to pre-dawn and I chased it, as I know many loyal listeners did, hungry for news from the Pacific – so close and yet seemingly invisible to most media outlets in Australia.
The advent of the podcast made everything simpler – in the morning I would download the previous evening’s episode and listen on my way to work. It made me smile to hear Sen Lam wish me ‘salam sejahtera’ as my train hurtled through the box ironbark forest of country Victoria.
‘Asia Pacific’ was cancelled about a month ago. I still have the last episode on my phone, unplayed. I can’t bring myself to hear the end.
And then, the first mention of my novel, Tiger Stone, in the media was on Radio Australia websites: on the Indonesian language page of Australia Plus in August and then in an English language article last week on the Radio Australia website itself.
I hope that doesn’t complete the Radio Australia circle for me. I hope that Radio Australia recovers from its funding woes. One day soon I’ll be ready to search for a replacement for ‘Asia Pacific’. I hope I find it on RA.