Everyone in Bamaga knows Amy McKeown. So does everyone across the Northern Peninsula region.
In fact most people in the Torres Strait Islands who listen to Black Star Radio, and before that the BRACS service (Broadcasting Remote Aboriginal Community Scheme) know Amy. Putting it in a nutshell, 25 years is an achievement in any job and for Amy it has been a journey of passion, commitment to radio and her dedicated listeners in the most northern part of Australia.
Amy was there at the beginning of radio services in the Cape, when content came in the form of cassette tapes from Melbourne. Radio was very basic: 1 CD player 1 Cassette player, 1 Microphone and a relay switcher to switch to satellite delivery of programs from way down south. Radio and television was localised to the five small communities at the tip of the Cape: Bamaga, Ingenoo, Umagico, new Mapoon and Seisia. Back then in the early 1990’s each of those communities had their own BRACS hubs and were also set up to produce video. Amy is also a skilled video producer as well as a radio announcer.
But funding was very thin for such high ambitions and often people down south didn’t understand well the challenges in getting training, technical and other support in such a remote location.
Amy has survived all those years and lived through the frustrations of weeks at a time of no services and television fade-outs due to cloud cover in the wet season and different Hub management arrangements in Townsville and Cairns. She has also been able to transition and re-skill multiple times as broadcasting technology has changed and her job role shifted shape.
These days there is VAST satellite television in the NPA communities and the NPA Radio service – amalgamated into one large service in 2011 – is far more technically reliable under the management of QRAM in Cairns and as part of the Black Star network.
In fact Amy was a key part of the evolution of Black Star, with the Bamaga-based NPA service being the trial site for a new approach in 2011, using innovative but untried radio and web-based technology to overcome the challenges of remote area broadcasting.
The Bamaga experiment worked, the Black Star name was born and has now grown into a progressive network of 17 radio services covering 24 towns and communities across Queensland. Black Star NPA’s listening audience stretches to Horn Island, parts of Thursday and Hammond Island, as well as right across the NPA region.
Black Star NPA, like each of the services, has its own strong local presence, and none stronger than this amazing pioneer of Indigenous media.
On a recent visit to Bamaga, Black Star’s Mark Graham caught up with Amy and presented her with the Black Star Certificate of Appreciation, for her outstanding commitment and loyalty to the listeners of the NPA and Torres Strait.
And if you’re living or visiting up in the NPA or the near Torres Strait, set your reminder every day for 10am and listen to Amy present a program packed with news, weather, good music, community noticeboard and the odd request – everything you need to know about life in the NPA.