Farewell to Indigenous Broadcasting Pioneer William Thaiday. Much loved and respected family man who spent a lifetime striving to educate, entertain, inform and teach Indigenous Broadcasters across the country and across the generations.
One of the forefathers of Indigenous radio broadcasting and the remote Indigenous media industry, William Thaiday, passed away recently in Rockhampton Hospital.
“Uncle Bill”, as he was known to us all with respect and affection, was a pioneer in the establishment of Indigenous radio broadcast services right across the country.
Following a visit to CAAMA Radio in Alice Springs in 1981, Bill and his younger brother Mick were inspired to start the steering committee for TAIMA (Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Media) in 1982 and became founding members of the inaugural Board. They produced and presented radio programmes and trained others for the air times available to TAIMA on ABC Townsville. They worked closely with Graeme Steele and 4TTT Community Radio in Townsville during 1981 -1983 before the TAIMA building, studios and 4K1G station were established. Bill was the Manager of TAIMA from 1983 – 1987.
He completed his train the trainer course at RMIT in Melbourne in 1987 and a Diploma in Broadcasting and Journalism at Batchelor College. He became a Broadcast Radio Trainer in the world’s first Indigenous media training course at Batchelor College and an inspiration to Indigenous media students from all over the country.
Bill brought students from Batchelor to Djarindjin in WA to train and broadcast on one of the new BRACS (Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme) stations.
He and his peers were responsible for the formation of TEABBA (Top End Aboriginal Bush Broadcasting Association) in June 1989. They launched a networked radio service, bringing programmes from Top End BRACS stations via phoneline. Programming was broadcast locally on Radio Rum Jungle at Batchelor township and went out on a time-share basis with the ABC on the HF shower (shortwave) frequency transmitted from Katherine. This was the forerunner of the multiple remote Indigenous Radio Networks operating via satellite right across Australia today.
Bill played a special role in the establishment of radio stations in the Kimberley, training at the newly established stations of Wangki Yupurnanupurru Radio in Fitzroy Crossing and Waringarri Radio in Kununurra between 1988 and 1991. He became station manager of Puranyangu Rangka Kerrem (PRK Radio) in Halls Creek in 1992, and, after a two year stint with Mt Isa Media in Queensland, was Station Manager of Waringarri Radio from 1996-98.
On his return to Queensland, Bill served as Deputy Chairperson of TAIMA 1999-2000 and Governing Committee member for the Remote Indigenous Media Association of Queensland, while managing Boongarra Media Cultural Aboriginal Corporation in Woorabinda Community.
Bill guided the establishment of the Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA) and was elected the inaugural Chairperson of IRCA from 2001 to 2006.
He was awarded the Preston Award for Lifetime Achievement at the National Remote Indigenous Media Festival in Woorabinda in 2005.
This loss is shared by many, many people around Australia, especially through the Indigenous media sector.
Bill touched many lives in the course of his endeavours to get Indigenous broadcasters behind those microphones to inform, educate and entertain their own people, teaching them to expose the dark history and deal with the present issues, in order to help pave the way for a better brighter future for Indigenous Australia. His fighting spirit was destined by his namesake and amazing father Mr William Thaiday.
While he was working to train people and put fire in their bellies, alongside Bill was always ever faithful Rosa – the love of his life. Their homes were like half-way houses – whether they were in Townsville, Batchelor, Mt Isa, Halls Creek, Kununurra or Woorabinda.
We say farewell to a much loved family man who was a teacher, statesman, elder, leader, role model and friend to many.