Here is the story of JOY – the Prequel !

2 Dec 2020

Here is the story of JOY – the Prequel !

Author – Chris Furneaux JOY 94.9 Volunteer Archivist – Text updated 1 Oct 2020

Let’s start with a little bit of gay history for context:

Gay liberation in Victoria gathered momentum in the 1970s, & it was not until December 1980 that a law was passed (72-7) to decriminalise homosexuality in Victoria. Until then, gay offences could result in gaol sentences – and lives would be ruined by the scandal. No wonder we were ‘in the closet’. There was general antagonism towards ‘queers’ and we existed in the shadows of society.

The AIDS crisis hit Australia in Oct 1982, and the first Australian death from AIDS occurred in Melbourne in July 1983. There was public hysteria and vilification. We all knew guys who were suddenly sick — then gone! We attended funerals on a monthly or even weekly basis. Our ranks were severely depleted.

Eventually medication improved and patients were living longer, but still dying too young. Lots of them were lying alone in sick beds at Fairfield (Infectious Disease Hospital) and The Alfred Hospital – quite disconnected from their friends, lovers, family and communities. We were now in the public gaze.

At that time, major daily newspapers only carried scandalous gay stories, and gay matters weren’t handled sensitively. And we gay people obtained our gay news via weekly street newspapers or monthly magazines. Luckily there was an active pub & club social scene which provided safe meet and mingle venues which supported us; where we could dance to our music. I must remind you that the inter-web was still in its infancy; mobile phones were the size of house bricks; there was no SMS, Facebook, Twitter or Grinder. For those in hospital or still coming to terms with their sexuality or gender, or wanting to feel part of the gay community, isolation was a frightening possibility.

John Oliver (JOY Member #1) was aware of some gay men in hospital and he thought that it would be quite therapeutic to make contact with them in their isolation through a private, safe and intimate medium – Was radio the answer? John thought so.

After some delicate negotiations with an existing local community radio station, John was able to secure 2 hours of broadcast time on World AIDS Day 1992. However this just confirmed that our community needed its own voice. Further enthusiasm and support was revealed at Midsumma Carnival 1993. JOY was poised to fill that need. We had a purpose. John drew together a small group of passionate like-minded friends and volunteers and they set themselves a target of 10 months to set up and begin broadcasting.

It wasn’t just a matter of plugging in a transmitter and hooking up a turntable or laptop (what were they?).

We had to go to Red Tape Central – the Federal Government in Canberra. This was not a quick or easy process – licences weren’t just up for grabs. We has to follow a strict process of applying for a licence to broadcast to the G&L community & it was submitted to the ABA Australian Broadcasting Authority in early 1993. The ABA (now known as ACMA Australian Communications and Media Authority) had to allocate a broadcast frequency, our broadcast power and signal strength, frequency and direction.

Hours of broadcast were limited. All consequences of being in the not-for-profit arena.

In support of each application, details of our management, financial and capabilities had to be provided. This meant that we had to set up:

  • The legal Identity –so JOY Melbourne became Incorporated & adopted a Constitution (based on Model Rules from Corporate Affairs Victoria); & this led to a committee of management (later Board of Governance), a Treasurer & need for Bank Accounts & signatories; this is still in place to this day;
  • Having established our purpose and identity, we implemented a membership process, defining the preferred model of member involvement and running of the station – as “membership with Voting Rights”- this too is still in place; and we developed a revenue stream from memberships, donations and sponsorships;
  • On the technical side, just imagine what was necessary to find and buy suitable gear to set up a broadcast studio, a transmitter and aerial, & to source office equipment, computers, desks, phones and simple 1990s software – all with meagre financial resources. Thankfully none of that early infrastructure remains;
  • Volunteers were (& still are) our greatest assets – we relied on their knowledge, skills, experience, passions, enthusiasm, personal time and generous financial support. Individuals may have come & gone, but as a group our volunteers remain our life-blood.

All this was just for periodic broadcasting – not a permanent licence. That struggle came later.

We secured a licence for an initial broadcast. The core group of volunteers performed miracles; and JOY went to air, as planned on Wednesday 1 December, World AIDS Day 1993. An important symbol.

The following weekend 4/5 December 1993, JOY went to air for 2 days of full-time broadcasting – delivering a wide array of programs including the show “Hello Hospitals”, Women on Waves, Bootscoot, gardening, computers, cooking, travel and gay news, pop music and current affairs, and the Rev Robert White’s religious program – with representatives from our diverse community.

While our initial broadcasts were for a few days at a time and at low-power transmissions, we became more proficient and the feed-back from our listeners confirmed that we had the support from all areas of our community. Soon we negotiated with the ABA to broadcast up to 90 days a year (equivalent to weekends only). We also applied for and obtained Special Event broadcast licences for the first of many Outside Broadcasts.

JOY developed a broadcast schedule which included community engagement, giving others a voice, telling our stories, providing confidence to those coming out, and celebrating as part of a visible and proud community at annual events like Midsumma & Pride March – a community uniting without a gender divide!

JOY has become a respected facilitator in ‘getting us on the map, developing community pride and involving our GLBTIQ friends, connecting with the wide Arts community, bringing the general public – our straight allies – along with us. We are agents of change, as we live our Mission Statement:

“JOY 94.9 is an LGBTIQA+ volunteer-based community radio station committed to providing a voice for the diverse LGBTIQA+ communities, enabling freedom of expression, the breaking down of isolation and the celebration of our culture, achievements and pride.”

So our history became, tentatively at first in 1993, but them with confidence; In 2001 were successfully argues our case for a permanent broadcast licence for full-time broadcasting, and now graduating to 21st Century technology for radio and office processes – leaving our humble origins in South Melbourne, via our 12 years in rented premises in Bourke Street Community Village (partly courtesy of the City Of Melbourne), as we prepare to move to Victorian Pride Centre, St Kilda in 2021.

Thankfully, we have seen positive generational change in social attitudes, been witness to Marriage Equality, and been accepted as part of the vibrant fabric of Melbourne and Australia. This is our legacy – the future lies before us.

Chris Furneaux

Written by Chris Furneaux, Member 783, joined JOY in 1997..
Chris has been handling membership services since 1999 & is also JOY’s volunteer Archivist.


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