An observational documentary which looks at Sydney’s first community Aboriginal radio station, Radio Redfern.
Set against the backdrop of contemporary Aboriginal music, 88.9 Radio Redfern offers a rare exploration of the people, attitudes and philosophies behind the lead up to a different type of celebration of Australia’s Bicentennial Year.
In 1988 when white Australians celebrated 200 years of settlement, Aboriginal people observed a year of protest and mourning.
88.9 Radio Redfern is a portrait of Sydney’s Aboriginal radio station in 1988 combining the intensity of the Aboriginal protest with the warmth and humour which form the essence of Radio Redfern broadcasts.
The film now serves as a time capsule for a period of black activism which started in 1988, inspired by a desire to protest the official celebrations of the establishment of a penal colony in Australia in 1788.
Much of the film is set in an Aboriginal community radio station in Sydney, with Aboriginal presenters interviewing black guests about the demonstrations taking place in Sydney and around Australia.
At intervals, the film leaves the studio to observe the formal white celebrations, as well as the counter-protests, which included a Tent Embassy in a park by Sydney Harbour, and generally peaceful marches in the streets of Sydney’s CBD and in Redfern.
This narrative is glued together by generous samples of black popular music of the time, as well as other moments, such as TV host and actor Ernie Dingo picking up the guitar for a song at the Tent Embassy, and Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett introducing the Aboriginal band Black Lace at a concert by Bondi beach.
Some Radio Redfern history
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.
1984 Watson and Bayles set up Radio Redfern in Cope Street, next to the Black Theatre, so that Redfern people could become more involved.
1988 Radio Redfern plays 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.
1990/91 The building is bulldozed at the same time as the demolition of the Black Theatre building. A decade of radio broadcasting in Redfern is brought to an end.
1993 Cathy Craigie and Matthew Cooke establish a community based media, arts and information service - Gadigal Information Service They start broadcasting on Radio Skid Row, and lease 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.
2001 Gadigal Information Service receives a Sydney-wide broadcasting licence, after six years hard work. 93.7FM on a 50kW transmitter. Koori Radio. 2LND. Live n’ deadly.
2003 Gadigal Information Service switches to a 500kW transmitter and broadcasts full-time. When the Chippendale terrace is sold, they move temporarily to Marrickville’s old hospital premises in Lilydale Street.
2008 The Indigenous Land Council renovates the Black Theatre site and leases it to local Aboriginal organisations. It is ready for business in early September. Koori Radio has returned to Redfern.
- Release dates
- 1988 - Australia
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