PHOTO: In 1998 the Coonamble Community Radio station welcomed their first full-time co-ordinator, Steve Daley from Lismore.
The Coonamble Community Radio Station will next month light the candles on their 25th anniversary cake.
From a long-talked-about idea, the station became a reality in late 1998, driven by a group of residents united in their determination to give the community another avenue of information and entertainment and to provide young people with the opportunity to learn the many skills involved in broadcasting through hands-on experience.
A public meeting saw a committee of interested people formed, supported by Coonamble Streets Ahead.
The Coonamble Times reported that major contributors at the time included Dean Haycock, Michelle Moody, Terry Lees, Bob Fuller, Gillian Fisher, Rob Harris, Charlie Ginty, Paul Underwood, Paul Gallagher, David Taylor and Lee Parsons.
After many months of meetings and behind the scenes work with similar committees in the neighbouring towns of Gilgandra and Coonabarabran, a temporary broadcast licence and an apparatus licence in mid 1998.
Their frequency was to be 91.9 megahertz on the FM band.
The temporary licence was valid for 12 months and shared between the three towns with a broadcast site in each town.
“Three separate programs will be transmitted initially from the three sites during the trial period,” Ms Parsons told the Coonamble Times in their 12 August 1998 edition.
“If the stations receive the support they hope, the Australian Broadcasting Authority will want a single larger station, probably transmitting from Mt Cenn Cruaich in the Warrumbungles.
“The authority believes a population of 20,000 is needed to make a community station viable.”
With verbal approval already in hand, in July 1998 the committee had organised radio training for interested locals, funded by TAFE Outreach, and delivered by volunteers of 2SER in Sydney.
A total of 39 people took part in the training, with 25 signing up to be volunteer presenters.
Helped along by a $14,000 grant from the Queens Trust for Young Australians, and a $10,000 donation from Coonamble Shire Council, the committee continued their quest.
They begged, borrowed and occasionally purchased equipment to build an antenna in the backyard of the then Country Energy yard in Castlereagh Street, and to fitout a studio and office space in rooms of the former youth centre building on the corner of Castlereagh and Tooloon Streets provided rent-free by the Shire.
Many local businesses contributed labour and materials, including carpet installed to soundproof the studio walls and floor from Murrays Floorcoverings.
In late August, a meeting in Gilgandra involving delegates from the three towns voted on a name for the newly-licensed station and all three sites operated under the 2WAR-FM banner (short for Warrumbungles).
In October, Steve Daley relocated from Lismore with his wife Gae to take up the position of first Co-ordinator.
The Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre Inc managed the funds and paid the bills until the fledgling station could fly on its own.
A grand opening was held on Saturday 19 December, with then Mayor Peter Burnheim performing the official duties and Coonamble Rotary Club providing hot chips and a sausage sizzle.
Mr Daley’s salary for 12 months was paid by a grant from the NSW Crime Prevention Division of the Attorney General’s Department and funds raised from local memberships and sponsorship. The community station had just one year to sink or swim.
“I was astounded at how many people wanted to be presenters and the number of kids who became involved,” Mr Daley said. “We had visits from local health workers to talk about health issues on the radio because we knew a lot of people couldn’t read their pamphlets.
“There were Fathers Day and Mothers Day programs where local businesses donated prizes and people could win just by having a song played.”
More to come in coming weeks. Mark your calendar for Saturday 18 November.