Victoria’s only Aboriginal radio station keeps airwaves crackling through coronavirus

General Manager of 3KND Gerry "G-Man" Lyons talks on CMR about the crucial importance of community radio during times of crisis

Victoria’s only Aboriginal radio station keeps airwaves crackling through coronavirus

Posted by: Charles Pakana
Posted: 10 September 2020
TAGS: 3KND | COVID-19 | Media
      CMR - 028 - Gerry Lyons

 

Click on the play button above to hear the full interview with 3KND’s G-Man

 

Connection Matters Radio (CMR): Whenever crisis confronts community, media, responsible media, exists to deliver information and, in many case, assurance. Increasingly, as we’ve seen during the recent Victorian bush fires and now with the coronavirus pandemic, people have turned to community radio.

Joining me today on Connection Matters Radio is 3KND general manager, Gerry Lyons, more widely known to many of you as G-Man. G, thanks for joining me on the program today.

Gerry (G-Man) Lyons: It’s a pleasure to be here.

CMR: G, what are the reasons people are turning more to community radio, rather than the commercial alternatives during these tough times?

G-Man: Community radio is seen as the voice of community. It’s about engagement, more [inaudible 00:00:53] as well they know us because we’re in their homes, we’re in their cars, we’re in their lives. They see us at events throughout the year normally. And so we built up a relationship, which is based on trust.

CMR: And that’s just not 3KND. That’s right across the entire community radio area, isn’t it?

G-Man: Right across. Yes, it is.

CMR: Now, you’ve got a fair bit of experience there. You’ve come from up north with CAAMA, I believe, wasn’t it?

G-Man: Central Australia? Yes.

CMR: It was the same thing there, wasn’t it, is that connection to community that commercial radio simply doesn’t have the time or the inclination, I’d guess to say, to follow through with.

G-Man: Community radio and bush [inaudible 00:01:34] far and wide is many times the lifeline and the communication, the modern message stick between all. So it is important, it is relevant. But in times like crisis, they all turn to this platform to get their information.

CMR: Now, 3KND has been going uninterrupted right throughout this course with the coronavirus, while other businesses have slowed down. This station was contacted by the state government with the desire to keep it open and keep people on the air and information flowing.

CMR: You’ve got a number of people still working from home, including, of course, our communications manager, program manager who comes in, I think one or two days a week, is it?

G-Man: One day a week, yes.

CMR: One day a week and, of course, we then have other staff at home as well. But you do have staff here. What are some of the overall challenges that are facing you as a station and general manager of keeping the boat afloat, so to speak?

G-Man: Very good question. I think it depends on the stages that we’re in.

First of all, it was gathering the staff and having that conversation with them what COVID-19 was all about, how we would react to that, how we would deal with that, that we would go into a rostering system, and we’ve done that. We’ve done that. Many are at home. We’ve got quite a lot of volunteers. But they come in after hours, they work on their own on their shows.

The important thing for us and the government swore on us was our connection to community. We need to answer phones. We can’t do that from home and we can’t transfer those. Our mob wants to hear us in real time. They want to ring us up and just say hello because many are on their own, Charles.

CMR: Yeah, of course.

G-Man: For us, for me, as the general manager, probably the biggest issue that I have to-date would be mental health, and monitoring that and allowing staff to come and to have some sort of interaction with the listening audience, with their jobs. That’s probably the biggest challenge at the moment, is making sure that our rosters and our staff ratios are all within the COVID-19 mental.

CMR: A big thing about community radio, and this is right across the country, is that it relies on volunteers, and you’ve got numerous volunteers who come in and do programs. Many of these have been on for a number of years, and I’m thinking, of course, of bringing them in on Sunday with Polly T between 12:00 and 3:00. And who could, of course, forget about the outstanding Sixties Sojourn-

G-Man: Of course.

CMR: … of course, on Sundays at 3:00 to 6:00? How important is it to the station and I think more importantly to the community that you’ve still got a lot of these volunteers coming in?

G-Man: All those shows are very important, whether it’s evening or throughout the day. What it shows is a stable environment that they are used to, that we’re not just going to automated music. They want to know that their family members would relate to on 3KND, like your show and Wendy as well and Polly T and it goes on and on, and, of course, Uncle Den, who’s 17 years in that seat. All of those shows there, and all of those people are personalities and family members. It’s important that the community can ring up, even if it’s just to ask for a song, but what they’re really doing is connecting.

CMR: Now you and I have had a number of yarns about where the station is going, and it seems that even during COVID-19, you’re being approached by people very keen to pursue at least a volunteer career in radio. We’re mentioning a couple of young people a couple of weeks ago. So there’s still seems to be quite a deal of interest from community members to get on air, or at least start to learn about some of the back office stuff that goes into putting a radio station and keeping it on air.

G-Man: Charles, I think we’re more busy now than we were prior to COVID-19 and not just for community announcements, but people and their interest back again to community radio.

A lot of youth out there, we have, of course, our lunchtime gig. We have our Friday and Saturday night shows, and they are very popular because we need to balance and just not have one type of music and one genre. Youth, of course at the moment, are going through quite a lot through homeschooling, a lot of them. Many others have lost their jobs, a lot of young ones have lost their jobs, are turning to radio because what they’re finding is that they have a skill through the technology. They’re very adept at technology, and they find that quite a skill.

For us, it’s offering training and offering them an opportunity to support community. They can do that in a number of ways, whether it’s administration, whether it’s broadcasting, whether it’s technical skills. All of that is important for us for our future, and whatever we can do to offer those pathways and get them on air and get them trained up, that’s an important part of what 3KND is.

CMR: G-Man, I want to thank you so much indeed. But before we let you go, have you got any messages out there to the audience that you’d like to share?

G-Man: Well, 3KND and our board are very pleased to have you putting this program forward, too, and having it on. Updates are an important part and what you bring. We want to have messages throughout the day and community service announcements and some conversations or interviews. But you bring it into a package each day. It is regular. It’s at 4:30, Monday to Friday, even though Den, the Fish, didn’t really like it to start with.

CMR: I do not blame him. I do not blame him.

G-Man: He didn’t like it. He’s used to it now, but that’s sort of thing is that it brings about a stability to our listeners out there that they know if they’ve missed something through the day that you are going to bring it to them, and you’ve got to have those conversations and allow them to be informed.

For our board, which I mentioned, to get the messages out there continually, but not pushing those messages, but put them out there is such an important part of community radio.

CMR: G, I want to thank you so much, indeed, and I suppose I’ll see you this afternoon or tomorrow, at least. You take care.

G-Man: It’s a pleasure

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