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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.


Wavescan 404, September 22, 2002

Another Radio Anniversary in Australia - Victoria's VK3ME

Two weeks ago here in Wavescan, we honored the 75th anniversary of the launching of Australiaís first international broadcasting service.  The experimental shortwave station was VK2ME, the location was Sydney in New South Wales, and the date was September 5,1927.

Just two days later, another famous "first" was achieved in Australia, and this was the launching of another shortwave broadcasting service with a similar callsign, VK3ME.  The location was Braybrook, on the edge of Melbourne in Victoria, and the date was September 7, 1927.

Let's go back now to the beginning of this historic radio venture in Australia's second largest city.

Sydney Newman was an engineer with AWA and in 1921 he established an amateur wireless station at his home in Mont Albert Road, a long suburban street running east from downtown Melbourne.  It is the same street where the well known Bob Padula lives today, though Sydney Newman's suburb was Canterbury and Bob Padula's suburb is Surrey Hills.  From this suburban home, Sydney Newman ran many broadcasts over his wireless station VK3ME, sometimes under his own initiative and sometimes as part of his work with AWA.

In 1927, Sydney Newman built a shortwave transmitter which was installed with the mediumwave station 3LO in Braybrook and the callsign was transferred from Newman's home to the new location.  Extensive Morse Code tests were conducted over this new transmitter in preparation for launching a new shortwave broadcasting service.

After the mediumwave station 3LO signed off at the end of the broadcast day on September 7, 1927, the shortwave transmitter was fired up for the inaugural live broadcast from the 3LO studios in downtown Melbourne.  This programming was also picked up by the BBC station 2LO in London and relayed on mediumwave thoughout the British Isles.  A regular schedule of weekly broadcasts was inaugurated just two months later.

On several occasions, the shortwave programming under the auspices of station VK3ME was transmitted by a higher powered 20 kW unit, the communication transmitter VIY which was located at Ballan, further out along the highway running towards Ballarat.  On several important occasions, both VK3LR at Lyndhurst and VK3ME at Ballan were heard with parallel programming, usually the broadcast of an international test cricket match.

The AWA communication station at Ballan contained two shortwave transmitters, VIZ and VIY, for wireless communication with England and North America.  This station was officially opened also in the year 1927, just five months ahead of the broadcast unit VK3ME.

Shortwave broadcasting from 3LO ended in 1929 when the two mediumwave stations in Melbourne, 3LO and 3AR, were amalgamated and ultimately taken over by the government for incorporation into the nationwide network of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.  From that time onwards, all shortwave programming was independently produced in the AWA studios, even though the VK3ME shortwave transmitter was still co-located in the same building as the 3LO mediumwave transmitter.

Early in its broadcasting history, station VK3ME introduced several important "firsts" in Australian shortwave programming, such as the call of the Kookaburra which was later taken over by VK2ME in Sydney, and later again by Radio Australia.  The Melbourne station also introduced station announcements in several different languages, and the call of the famous Victorian bird, the Lyre Bird.  Interestingly, the wavelength at VK3ME was described at one stage as "35 yards" rather than the metric 32 metres.

These days, all of these radio facilities are now gone.  Earlier this year, Bob Padula, together with his radio colleague Mike Ogrizek, made a historic visit to the area and this is what Bob states.

The AWA communication station at Ballan, or Fiskville as it was sometimes termed, is now a training facility for the Country Fire Authority, CFA, in Victoria.  The transmitter hall that housed the three shortwave transmitters is still standing and is part of the visitor centre for the CFA.

The receiver station at Rockbank was later in use by the Australian Army, but that is also now closed.  These days the property is in an extensive farmland area with nearby housing estates slowly moving out that way.  The ABC-AWA transmitter base at Braybrook is now absorbed into a a suburban industrial comeplex.

All that remains of the historic twelve year era of AWA-3LO-VK3ME on the air shortwave are references in old radio magazines and modern historical journals, and old QSL cards that sometimes surface on ebay, the internet auction site.  The VK3ME QSL cards are somewhat similar to the cards that were issued by the sister station, VK2ME.  The Melbourne card shows a map of Australia with sparks emanating from a radio antenna.