House debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


McEwen Electorate: Upper Goulburn Community Radio

9:45 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no doubt in my mind that volunteers of community groups are the backbone of our communities. They contribute so greatly. It is hard to quantify their benefit to local areas. I strongly believe that they are an invaluable asset. McEwen truly is a great place, which embodies the term ‘community’ and brings it to life. We are indeed a better region for the work that our volunteers do. Therefore I believe that it is important to place on the public record in our national parliament my gratitude and thanks on behalf of my community for a community organisation that continues to keep giving.

I rise to congratulate Upper Goulburn Community Radio, a community radio station in my electorate which has done a great job over the past 16 years providing locals with news, music and public information. This last service was never more important than during the events of 7 February 2009, which saw Australia’s worst national bushfire disaster devastate my electorate and most of the area that UGFM broadcasts to. I was therefore delighted to have recently participated in UGFM’s 16th birthday celebrations at their new Marysville studio. These new permanent facilities will serve the community well and are another sign of support and strength for the Marysville community.

The local radio station has a long and proud history of communicating with the community, primarily about issues that directly affect our region. As I said, this was most evident during the February 2009 fires. UGFM and the staff were vital with their assistance for the community, giving very early and clear warnings of the Kilmore and Murrindindi fires as they spread, by using their local knowledge and links with fire authorities. This helped to save many lives as the fires spread into the Flowerdale and Marysville areas. The Marysville and Flowerdale transmitters were lost as the fires spread, but UGFM stayed on air with backup generators and coverage from the Alexandra and Yea transmitters. UGFM established a new studio at the Marysville temporary village in May 2009, to help with the bushfire recovery, and in August established a transmitter on FM94.5 megahertz, for the Kinglake Ranges, to assist with ongoing recovery information.

President of UGFM, Peter Weeks, gave evidence to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission on the systems and processes that the radio station had in place, how it managed to give early warnings to listeners and how he thought improvements could be made in the process of information dissemination.

UGFM received the Community Broadcast Association of Australia’s Tony Staley Award for Excellence in Community Broadcasting, for work during and following the 2009 fires. This is the sector’s highest award. Earlier this year UGFM became Australia’s first community station to become an official state emergency broadcaster, signing an MOU with the Brumby Labor government. UGFM also received a highly commended award for media at the October 2010 Fire Awareness Awards.

Recently the relocation to a permanent home for the Marysville studio in the recovery and advisory centre at Marysville was completed. This was celebrated and officially opened along with the 16th birthday celebrations of UGFM.

UGFM continues today to provide additional regular recovery information for residents across the Murrindindi Shire as a part of normal daily programs provided by 50 dedicated volunteers. UGFM’s president, Peter Weeks, continues to give talks and presentations to conferences on the UGFM experience and the lessons learnt and encourages community broadcasters to become involved in emergency broadcasting and work with other broadcast sectors and government to help save lives and property in an emergency.

I want to congratulate all the dedicated volunteers at the radio station for their community spirit and work since UGFM’s inception and particularly following the fires. They continue to contribute greatly to the community’s way of life. I am pleased to say that on a fortnightly basis I get the opportunity go on air to discuss local initiatives with the announcers. UGFM should be proud of achieving its 16th birthday, as each year of UGFM’s service to the community has so richly contributed and benefited locals in many, many ways.