THE HISTORY OF SHORTWAVE RADIO IN AUSTRALIA

1943 - ABC Radio Australia - Shepparton (Victoria)

Home
Project Overview
1800s - Land Telegraphy
1874 - Guglielmo Marconi - a Tribute
1895 - Wireless Telegraphy
1901 - Wireless Telegraphy
1902 - Wireless Telegraphy in Australia
1904 - Australian Coastal Radio
1906 - Wireless Telephony
1912 - Melbourne Radio - VIM
1914 - Shortwave Wireless Telephony
1920s - Commercial Shortwave Telephony Development
1920s - Receivers
1920 - The huge RCA Longwave Station in New York
1920 - Wireless broadcasting in Australia
1920s - First shortwave stations in Victoria
1921 - Discovery of Shortwave Propagation
1921 - Koo Wee Rup (Victoria) Experimental Wireless Receiving Station
1923- Longwave Broadcasting in Australia
1923 - Evolution of Australian Domestic Radio
1924 - 3LO - Melbourne's Second Broadcaster
1924 - 3AR - Melbourne's first broadcaster
1924 - The Braybrook (Melbourne) Transmitting Site
1925 - First Shortwave Stations in Western Australia
1926 - First Shortwave Stations in New South Wales
1926 - RAAF Communications - Laverton (Vic)
1927 - Beam Wireless Worldwide
1927 - Beam Wireless from Australia
1928 - ABC Lyndhurst (Victoria)
1930 - AWA Receiving Station at La Perouse (Sydney)
1930 - AWA Radio Centre at Pennant Hills
1933 (to 1969) - Shortwave Radio Clubs in Australia
1936 - Ship Broadcaster - the MS Kanimbla
1939 - Belconnen Communications Station (Canberra)
1940 - RAAF Receiving Station at Werribee (Victoria)
1941 - RAAF Frognall (Melbourne)
1941 - ABC Brisbane
1942 - Army Wireless Chain - west of Melbourne
1942 - Dutch Stations in Australia
1943 - ABC Radio Australia - Shepparton (Victoria)
1943 - Army Shortwave HF Stations in Melbourne
1944 - ABC - Radio Australia - Looking Back
1945 - PMG Receiving Station - Highpark (Victoria)
1945 - Radio Australia - DXers Calling
1946 - Radio Australia - Communications Programs
1946 - VNG Time Signal Station
1948 - Radio Australia QSL Cards
1948 - ABC Sydney
1966 - ABC Cox Peninsula (Darwin)
1970 (to 2012) - Shortwave Radio Clubs in Australia
1975 - ABC Gnangara (Western Australia)
1975 - ABC Carnarvon (Western Australia)
1978 - Omega Navigation Station - Woodside (Victoria)
1985 - ABC Northern Territory
1989 - ABC Brandon (Queensland)
2003 - Private Shortwave Broadcasters
Timeline - Part One - 1839 to 1927
Timeline - Part Two - 1928 to 2012
SPECIAL - Licencing of Shortwave Broadcasters
SPECIAL - Radio Receivers for Shortwave
SPECIAL - Radio Monitoring as a Hobby
Epilogue
Bibliography, References and Resources
Links to the author's personal websites

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2014 - Google Streetview, main entrance

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2014 - satellite view of Station

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Radio Australia 1964 Tuning Signal

Click to hear the Radio Australia Tuning Signal and Opening Announcements, December 1964!

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2012 - entrance to the Station

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1945 - transmitter hall

Beginnings 

Soon after the onset of the European Conflict in 1939, discussions took place between the imperial leaders in London and the government leaders in Canada and Australia. These discussions focused on the setting up of large international shortwave stations for use as a possible backup for the BBC Empire Service in England. Work moved ahead in both countries, and two large shortwave bases were established; Sackville in Canada for Radio Canada International and Shepparton in Australia for "Australia Calling".

 

Site surveys for the Australian shortwave station were conducted in many areas of south eastern Australia, and finally the decision settled upon a grassland location of 200 hectares in the fertile fruit-growing Goulburn valley of central Victoria. This site, 6 km north of the town of Shepparton, on Verney Rd, Lemnos, was reasonably accessible to the three major cities, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, and it was suitable propagationally for a large shortwave station.

 

February 1943
The main transmitter hall was completed in February 1943, and even though it was designed to contain three transmitters, yet none could be found. Finally, an agreement was reached with the United States, and a 50 kW RCA transmitter, originally allocated to the "Voice of America", was diverted for installation at Shepparton.

 

The agreement between the American and Australian governments included a proviso that this lendlease transmitter should also carry a relay of programming from the "Voice of America". Thus it was, that the 90 minute daily program, the "Philippine Hour", was heard on relay from "Australia Calling" in Australia for a year or two.

 

 

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1961 - transmitter hall

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1959 - transmitter hall

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1973 - main transmitter room - 100 kW unit

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1962 - Control Panel for antenna switching and skewing

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1959 - antennas

May 1 1944
This new lendlease transmitter from the United States was installed at Shepparton and it was inaugurated, with programming co-ordinated in the ABC studios in Melbourne and fed by landline to the shortwave transmitter at Shepparton, a distance of 180 km.

Two additional transmitters at 100 kW were manufactured in Sydney as a joint effort between AWA and STC and these were installed at Shepparton under the callsigns VLA and VLB. A total of 19 antennas were erected at Shepparton, mostly curtains with passive reflectors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 15 1945
Transmitter VLA was inaugurated, and just four days later, VLB was inaugurated.

All three of these transmitters incorporated two channels of programming access.

In preparation for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melboune, two new transmitters were installed at Shepparton. Another American made RCA unit at 50 kW was designated as VLD, and an Australian made STC unit at 10 kW was designated as VLY.

Soon afterwards, during a modernisation program, one of the channels in each of the three transmitters at Shepparton was split off and incorporated into a new transmitter. The newly derived transmitters were activated with the callsigns VLC, VLE, and VLF. However, the callsigns in use at Shepparton became so complicated that they were abandoned at the end of October 1961.
 

Australian Government's Policy Decisions
In the 1960s, the Australian Government made a major policy decision that it would progressively abandon its services for areas outside of the Asia/Pacific region. This was a consequence of a decision that RA would provide a ring of shortwave services into neighbouring countries, a policy which survives to the present.

For many years, I provided part-time engineering support and consultancy to Radio Australia, when it was part of the Post Office, as well as preparing scripts and tapes for the various Communications programs, including DXers Calling.

In those years, I was privy to many proposals and plans, which at the time were classified confidential, and were neither divulged nor released to the outside world.

That included Policy Papers concerning RA’s refusal to permit any foreign broadcasting service to use the Shepparton facilities, in the “national interest”

A related policy concerned the Govt's decision not to allow the construction of any international broadcasting facility on Australian soil, except in very special circumstances.

The decision to allow HCJB to set up its station at Kununurra, Western Australia, in 1975, came as a complete surprise to many of us in the industry, which was a complete about-face of an established policy.

It was well known that it took several years for approval to be handed by the Govt to set up the new station.

The establishment of RA’s new facility at the Cox Peninsula, near Darwin in 1969 also came as a surprise, as the policies of the time did not support the building of such a facility so close to our northern neighbours. There was already a large military communications facility at North West Cape, at Exmouth, Western Australia, and concerns had been raised at the reasons for setting up a RA station so close to a facility which had been believed to be a prime target for airborne terrorist attacks

Just as surprisingly, the Government’s decision to abandon the Cox Peninsula station in 1996 came unexpectedly, which had been triggered by growing political unrest and turmoil across
Southern Asia.

Facilities in 2012
There are seven transmitters of 100 kW carrying exclusively the international programming of Radio Australia. There are 13 antennas, supported by masts 70 metres tall. The site is owned and operated by Broadcast Australia, employing seven full time staff. 

 

March 2015
As a result of massive  budget cuts across the ABC, all transmissions from Shepparton to Asia were cancelled. Broadcasts in English, Tok Pijsin and French continued only for the primary service area for the Pacific, from three transmitters. Transmissions in Chinese, Indonesian and Thai were cancelled. Services in Tok Pisin ware reduced. A 5-minute news broadcast in French continued on Mondays to Fridays, intended for New Caledonia, Vanuatu and other French speaking communities in the western Pacific.

 

 

 



 

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1959 - feeder lines

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1959 - antennas

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1962 - transmitter maintenance

Watch this Video of a visit to Shepparton in April 2010 by VK3EB

Another Video of a visit to Shpparton by VK3ASE in 2011

Contact the author at this Email link