Not many people will be aware there was an ABC radio transmission station located nearby on Waiora Road, outside of the Mont Park Asylum gates on the current site of Charles La Trobe College. There was a caretaker’s shack and a high receiving mast located there for the ABC and it is believed to be the transmitting station which received the broadcast of the ‘Agua Caliente Handicap’ won by Phar Lap in Mexico in 1938 https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/phar-laps-last-race-agua-caliente
During the First World War, all radio stations came under Government control to ensure national security.
In the Second World War, the Dutch Navy set up a listening post in the former ABC radio transmitting station in Waiora Road. Radio transmissions from Japanese-occupied Java were monitored to assist resistance activities behind enemy lines. Armed guards were provided for the station and army tents were erected along Waiora Road. See article on Dutch involvement n Indonesia.
Fully trained technicians of the PMG Department were recruited into the ‘Line of Communication (PMG) Signals’ to enable the Australian Civil Telecommunications system to be brought under military control in the event of invasion. The staff were designated as having reserved occupations and as such, they were not required to attend camps for continuous training but to attend home training at a drill hall or other approved sites for 6 days per year.
One of these units was raised in each military district with Telegraph Operating, Telephone Switchboard Operating, Despatch Rider, Construction, Wireless, Line Maintenance and Technical Maintenance Sections. To enable staff to be transported to assemblies and training, some of the PMG trucks had their red duco painted over in camouflage colours.
The men also prepared ‘dumps’ of essential line stores, devised drills for laying of ‘interruption‘ cables and developed priority lists for restoring wires in sequence to ensure that if lines were bombed they could be restored promptly.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF RADIO HISTORY
1925 – 3AR live broadcast of Dame Nellie Melba Charity Concert from the Lilydale RSL club
1927 – AWA short-wave radio transmissions to England, transmissions began with ‘Jacko’ the kookaburra’s laugh and continued to be used by Radio National
1930 – ABC, 2UW, 3DB, 4BH and 5AD provide first coverage of cricket test match series in England
1932 – Nationalisation of the ABC—12 ABC stations and 43 commercial; ABC originally allowed to advertise but eventually funded by listeners licence fees
1939 – Radio Australia was incorporated into ABC
1940 – war time censorship imposed, and Department of Information under Sir Keith Murdoch took control of ABC nightly national news
1942 – ABC Act passed – giving the ABC power to decide what political speeches can be broadcast – power only used once
My family lived in Waiora Road from the middle of 1955 to around 1980 and remember the former ABC wireless towers on the site of what became the Macleod Technical School, now the Charles La Trobe College. I have been unable to source a map depicting the site of the transmission tower and believe it was located on the map above, in the area near the south east of the La Trobe University buildings, probably on the high point indicated on the contour map.
Barker, Theo (1987) Signals: A History of the Royal Australian Army Corps of Signals 1788-1947, Royal Australian Corps of Signals Committee, Canberra
Bircanin, Iliya and Short, Alex (1995) Glimpses of the past: Mont Park, Larundel, Plenty, The Authors, Melbourne
Carty, Bruce (2011) On the air: Australian radio history. Gosford, NSW
Lines of Communication PMG Patch https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1077988
The History of Radio in Australia- excerpts from a lecture given by Dr. Jeff Langdon in 1995
Photo of transmitter site: https://1945.melbourne/
Margaret Jack July 2020