Wednesday, July 24, 2024  
Radio Redfern & Koori Radio
    27 - 31 Cope St, Redfern  

National Archives Australia
Black Theatre [1972-] 1974-1977

Radio Redfern 1981-1991

Koori Radio [1993-] 2008 >

27 Cope Street
In 1981 Maureen Watson and son, Tiga Bayles, Redfern residents for nearly two decades, started broadcasting on Radio Skid Row and 2SER. It grew from ten minutes to ten hours to 40 hours.

In 1984 they set up Radio Redfern in Cope Street, next to the Black Theatre, so that Redfern people could become more involved.

In 1988 Radio Redfern played a pivotal role in informing and educating the public about Aboriginal perspective and responses to the Commonwealth Games, and the bicentennary year. This inspired people to work towards setting up Koori Radio to provide Sydney's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community with a permanent voice.

In 1990  or 1991, the building was bulldozed at the same time as the demolition of the Black Theatre building. A decade of radio broadcasting in Redfern was brought to an end.

In 1993 Cathy Craigie and Matthew Cooke established a community based media, arts and information service - Gadigal Information Service They started broadcasting on Radio Skid Row, and leased the upper level of a terrace house on the corner of Cleveland and Edwards Streets. Close to the Block, it remained an important drop-in and information centre.

In 2001 Gadigal Information Service was given a Sydney-wide broadcasting licence, after six years hard work. 93.7FM on a 50kW transmitter. Koori Radio. 2LND. Live n' deadly. In 2003 they switched to a 500kW transmitter and were broadcasting full-time. When the Chippendale terrace was sold, they moved temporarily to Marrickville's old hospital premises in Lilydale Street.

In 2008 the ILC renovated the Black Theatre site and leased it to local Aboriginal organisations. It was ready for business in early September. Koori Radio has returned to Redfern !!!

'Rebel with a cause' Pt 4 - Tiga Bayles
    Links - Radio Redfern 1981 - 1991?  
    Links - Koori Radio 1993 > now  
    Radio Redfern  

Tiga Bayles: It was 1980, '81. My mother, Maureen Watson, came back from a conference in Alice Springs, where she saw CAAMA Radio. Came back talking about this Aboriginal radio station, or these Aboriginal people that were working in radio—we were in Redfern at the time. She came back talking about radio and how it was important and we should be looking at it down in Sydney, in Redfern. She said, come on, let's go in here. We'll talk to the manager of 2SER. So we went in there. She got 10 minutes a week for starters. It was just a 10-minute little filler, but there was an empty spot, I suppose, in their programming. And within a month-and-a-half, two months, we learned how to panel ourselves. It wasn't good enough just sitting there being talking heads, we wanted to panel and press the buttons and do it ourselves. From there, within three months or so we said we want more than 10 minutes, so we expanded that time to one hour a week and did that quite regularly. Mum started it out, and because she travelled a lot, I filled in when she was away.

So it really all started out there at 2SER back in the early 80s. And it expanded from there where I did a three-hour music program from midnight until 3am. That was a black music show, and did that for about five years or so. But our biggest problem down there, Donna, was the Kooris. Like it was difficult to get Kooris to leave the community of Redfern, even though Broadway's only a 10-minute walk. About '83, '84 Skid Row got a licence. The very first allocation by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal of community licenses in Sydney. There were nine licences issued in '83, '84. And Radio Skid Row got one of those licences, and they were based in the Wentworth building of Sydney University, down in the basement. And they stepped up and said, there's 10 hours a week for you Kooris—straight up, ten hours. We almost fell over in shock, thinking however could we manage ten hours a week? But it was good. It was good, because it put the pressure on us then to get more people involved. But again, ten minutes walk up to Newtown there, to King Street from Redfern—it was still difficult to get our people out.

But we grew that, from '83, '84, that ten hours grew to 40 hours a week, and a real partnership thing. I was elected as chair of the Skid Row station at some point—'85 or so. We ended up with our own studios in about '84—twelve months or two years or so of being on air, and having the difficulty of bringing Aboriginal people from Redfern into either one of these studios. And the reason they didn't want to go there, it wasn't our place, it wasn't our environment, it wasn't our community. We weren't in control. It wasn't our place. So we thought, well, let's take radio back into Redfern. Let's put studios in Redfern. And that's how Radio Redfern was born, really. It emerged, was established, as a result of just bringing radio into the community, and that's how we got the name of Radio Redfern. People in the community just dropped in and talk and chat, and cuppa tea—it was a real hub, especially for visitors. But for the local community—visitors when they come to town looking for an organisation or a family member or somebody, or a friend—they'd come to the station.

excerpt from Indigenous Media ABC 2RN

    Wayne Costelloe  

artlink header.gif Vol 10 Nos 1&2 1992 - reprinted with permission

Radio Redfern  -  The Koori voice in Sydney

Wayne Costelloe     

Located in an old terrace house in Cope Street, Redfern, is the voice of the Aboriginal community in Sydney. The terrace house is not unlike any other in the inner city. However with the Koori colours on one wall and the music of Koori bands blasting out from speakers up on the balcony, the house is fairly outstanding.

On entering the building, past the first room,

is the reception area. Here hangs an Aboriginal

flag, surrounded by a Rainbow Serpent, which

snakes across the walls and ceiling. There are

oiher traditional designs and motifs which flood

this room and one can be overwhelmed with a

sense of being in a sacred cave.

Up at the end of a narrow staircase is the

mixing room where the reel tapes are recorded.

Koori music is the predominant occupant on

these reels and each volunteer DJ makes up their

own mixes. These reels then go into the library on

the ground floor and are for the general use of the

announcers whilst on their shift. An elaborate

registry system is in place to easily locate

particular songs when and if they are required for


       In the back room, next to the kitchen, is the

broadcasting room. What was once presumably

a bedroom is now converted, with all the

trappings of a radio station, There is the console to

air, three revox reels, one cassette deck, two

turntables, one cartridge and three microphones.

There is also the facility to conduct telephone


       These resources leave Radio Redfern open

for growth and development in its role. As was

mentioned earlier, Radio Redfern is the voice of

the Aboriginal community in Sydney and its role

takes the form of communitv announcements, ie

rallies, services etc,, catering for the musical taste

of the listeners (the audience wants to hear Koori

bands), and finally, being seen as a positive and

constructive move towards maintaining and

supporting the culture of our people.

       An example of the influence of Radio

Redfern is how the community was rallied to

attend a protest march in support of the inquiry

into the death of David Gundy and black deaths

in custody. A further example is the calling

together of the clans for a football match.

       Radio Redfern is 88.9 FM on the dial and

currently holds approximately forty hours of

airtime, which is a vast improvement of 15

minutes per reel hosted by the enigmatic

Maureen Watson circa 1982/3. In those early

days 'Radio', (as it is affectionatelv known to local

Kooris), was affiliated with 2SER. However,

Radio Skid Row is the current umbrella group.

This is an FM community radio which has a

broadcasting licence and sells airtime to various

communlty groups.

       Tiga Bayles who hosted Radio Skid Row

gradually built it up from 30 minutes per week to

its present airtime. The Public Broadcasting

Foundation and the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs contribute money to Radio to assist in

general administration and broadcasting costs.

       All the announcers with Radio Redfern are

voluntary, as I am. My association with Radio

came about as a result of a friend in Redfern

thinking, "You would be good as an announcer

and there need to be more Kooris doing shifts". I

had no previous experience in this sort of thing so

I had to think about it. In the end I took it on and,

in one easy lesson from a seasoned announcer

and now good friend, I launched into radio


       I was pretty much thrown in the deep end

having to do a four hour shift every Saturday

from 12 midday to 4pm. I was left with a four

hour shift after one announcer finished to be with

his expecting wife. However, I loved having this

much time and space to experiment in. So I did

community announcements, held live

interviews, a live didgeridoo performance and

had a feature which I called Koori Three Pack of

songs every thirty minutes or so and attracted an

appreciative audience.

       At present I am down to a two hour shift

which is good news because that means more

Koori people are doing shifts which in turn

means a greater community involvement by the

very target group catered for. The doors of Radio

Redfern are open to the public, giving that

freedom for people off the street to come in and

say hi to friends and family over the airwaves, or

to make requests, dedications or announcements.

This is indicative of the sharing and openness

that remains part of our culture. True community


     The music library is quite comprehensive

with at least all of the known contemporary

Aboriginal music present and accounted for.

There are also a few reels of traditional music.

Included in the library is a vast range of country

and western music from Australia and the

United States, this style being a great part in the

lives of our people across the country. Many of

the announcers, including myself, bring in our

own music, which in itself presents varying styles

of tastes, and the listening audience is exposed to

more than a few styles.

       Many of the bands and artists featured on

Radio Redfern take time out to come in and be

interviewed live whilst they are doing a stint in

Sydney, They also perform at The Settlement, the

Aboriginal Community Centre in Edward Street,

Chippendale, which makes it a special night.

       Radio Redfern has a bright future and its role

will increase significantly in the broadcasting

arena that is Sydney. The competitive edge that

Radio has is that it is Aboriginal operated. In an

environment where the status of Aboriginal

people is improving through art and music,

this is unique and important.



Big love to the Bayles-Watson Family for their work
at 88.9FM and for allowing us to use this footage.
Videos courtesy of Kirsten Tona. [RadioSkidRow]

In early 1982, Aunty Maureen Watson and her son Tiga Bayles had been given a 15 minute timeslot to broadcast at 2SER in Sydney. They realised that none of the nearby community was going to turn up to be involved in 15 minutes of airtime. When Radio Skid Row started later that year, they saw an opportunity to do something different. They wanted to create a space of more than a few hours where the community was welcomed into the station. Radio Redfern started with 10 hours of airtime under the first Radio Skid Row management (they had been demanding 30 hours). After the Radio Skid Row workers had overthrown the first board this quickly increased to 30 hours.

Uncle Mac Silva was the first person to go on air - he was a brilliant and much-loved broadcaster. Broadcasting from Radio Skid Row studios on Thursdays and Saturdays – only Indigenous people were allowed in the station during those times. Eventually, we squatted a terrace owned by the government in Cope St, Redfern and installed a landline to Radio Skid Row.

Radio Redfern broadcasts on Radio Skid Row 88.9FM became so important that we called ourselves the Radio Skid Row Radio Redfern Connexion. In this clip, the late Aunty Maureen Watson gives us some real talk about why preserving Radio Skid Row Radio Radfern Connexion is so important.

Burri, Graham, Stacey, Johnny, Laina and Aunty Maureen.
    27 June - 1 August 2013  
sound lounge
LIVE and DEADLY - Koori Radio - 20 years
celebration exhibition combining personal archives, films,
radio recordings, photography, Klub Koori events & forums.

🟡 Desperate measures NITV with Lily Shearer
    16 December 2022  

National Film & Sound Archive added bicentenary protest coverage by
RadioRedfern into Sounds of Australia | NicolaJoseph RadioSkidRow
That's 17 hours of the Radio Redfern broadcast.
🔵clip - Charlie Watson & Tiga Bayles
🔵clip - Chris Kirkbright
    1 March 2023  

Radio Skid Row History Project - Ep3- Nicola Joseph
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