The ABC’s local stations and bureaux connect with communities across Australia, providing relevant content across a range of platforms, celebrating important local events, and supporting communities in times of need. Local teams undertake outside broadcasts (OBs) and events throughout the year, covering important regional issues and events and giving a platform to communities across the country.
In February and March 2020, ABC Radio Brisbane broadcast for a day each from Ipswich, Logan, and Moreton Bay to share community perspectives in the lead up to the Queensland local council elections. Cairns and Townsville rural reporters took their radio audiences to a place rarely visited by the public – 5.8 kilometres down a narrow road to the end of the world’s second longest jetty, the Lucinda Bulk Sugar Terminal in Far North Queensland. WA Regional Drive broadcast from the Dowerin Field Day, an agricultural event attended by more than 25,000 people in the Central Wheatbelt of WA, while Australia Wide and ABC Alice Springs teams broadcast from Uluru to mark the closing of the rock climb on 25 October 2019.
Local teams broadcast live from community cultural events and partnered with festivals to bring those experiences to wider audiences in the area and across the country. In September 2019, triple j took over the small regional town of Lucindale on the South Australian Limestone Coast providing another stellar line up of Australian artists for a large appreciative crowd at the One Night Stand. Headliners Hilltop Hoods, Meg Mac, Ocean Alley and G Flip were joined by 15,000 people at the free event, with $22,558 raised for the Stand Like Stone Foundation. Half the money raised was donated to help the Lucindale Area Pool reopening, and the remaining 50% was allocated to youth leadership scholarships.
In November 2019, ABC Radio Sydney celebrated Ausmusic month and the UN Year of Indigenous Languages with Sing Out Sydney. Twenty-one choirs from across New South Wales performed at the Sydney Recital Hall, sharing stories and songs from diverse communities around Sydney and the state. The concert concluded with all 560 choristers performing Christine Anu’s Kulba Yaday in Kalaw Kawaw Ya language from the north western island of the Torres Strait.
In January 2020, ABC New England North West once again brought listeners all the action from the Tamworth Country Music Festival across a week of programming.
Support for communities
ABC local teams also supported their communities through charity events and fundraising. In 2019 and in its 31st year, ABC Hobart’s Giving Tree Appeal – the state’s biggest Christmas appeal – raised more than $100,000, with a further $130,000 worth of gifts donated to be distributed to disadvantaged and vulnerable Tasmanians. The Queensland Gives Christmas Appeal raised more than $300,000 for the Queensland Rural Fire Service, with ABC Brisbane hosting a variety concert to a sell-out crowd of 2,000, staffed by 50 volunteers from ABC Brisbane.
Approximately 7,000 visitors attended the Adelaide ABC Gardeners' Market in October, which included entertainment and ABC tours, raising more than $24,000 for the charity partner CanTeen. Capital City radio stations partnered with not-for-profit aid agency Foodbank during the year, encouraging the community to donate to their services, especially in times of crisis or need.
Communities strategy and engagement
Increased quality and quantity of regional reporting was made possible through the three-year Connecting Communities project, which was completed in December 2019. The technology investment project boosted regional digital and video reporting capacity, resulting in an increase in content from regional bureaux across all platforms, especially digital and video, correlating with an increase in audience engagement and reach, meaning more communities being served.
The ABC’s Community Engagement team also continued their work throughout the year, which included projects increasing media skills in remote communities. For more see Remote communities
Stories from the outer city
ABC news teams in the cities also connected with local communities throughout 2019-20. The Melbourne newsroom explored the challenges of living in Tarneit, on the city’s fringe and one of the country’s fastest growing areas, and in Queensland local teams spoke to Chinese-speaking residents in Sunnybank who were using WeChat to reach out to others in the community if they felt unsafe. Journalists from the Perth newsroom spent three days with Mandurah locals getting their thoughts on the big issues – producing content that attracted well over the average audiences for typical local digital stories.
In March, the new Western Sydney newsroom opened, doubling the number of permanent News staff on location from three in the old office to six and adding the capacity to broadcast live radio programs in future. The newsroom is equipped for video and audio news production and editing and has space for 12 staff, including two Local Communities Reporters who will focus on finding and telling the stories of Western Sydney’s many diverse communities. Under a partnership with Western Sydney University journalism students will also be able to do work experience in the newsroom as part of their course work.
Speaking to Australians
Quality programming showcasing the stories of communities around Australia included Almost Australian, a three-part documentary series hosted by Miriam Margolyes. Miriam’s 10,000 kilometre drive across the country to explore the ‘Australian dream’ included visits to towns, beaches, camping parks, and the outback, where she met a diverse range of Australians who shared their unique stories – farmers doing it tough during the drought, Chinese Australians, refugees from Afghanistan and Burma, and the sista girls of Tiwi Island. One particular conversation with Afghani refugee Moj inspired a large and emotional reaction on social media, with fellow Australians reaching out to share their support for the young man.
On radio, Ockham’s Razor, RN’s ‘science soapbox’, travelled to Perth, Hobart, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney in search of the best 10-minute talks and stories, and RN’s Awaye expanded the ‘Word Up!’ broadcast series and podcast, reaching out to more language revival communities Kulkalgau Ya (Poruma or Coconut Island in the Torres Strait), Mwang (north-west Arnhem Land, NT), Ngandi (Ngukurr, NT), Nyul Nyul (Dampier Peninsula, WA), Mirning (Nullabor Plain, SA), Ganggalidda (Gulf of Carpentaria, QLD) and Dja Dja Wurrung (Victoria).