Recently added to the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll for his work in the media industry, Jim Remedio is now using his platform to demand urgent change within the Indigenous radio sector.
Mr Remedio, a Torres Strait Islander man and respected Elder, has been in the media industry for the last 30 years, using local radio and TV stations to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.
He has been at the forefront of growing Indigenous radio stations, such as in 2015 when he took on the management of Melbourne Indigenous station Kool N Deadly (3KND), Melbourne’s first Indigenous owned and managed AM radio station.
Mr Remedio was also a founding member of the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia and was on the original board of the National Indigenous Television Network (NITV).
However, Mr Remedio said Indigenous radio stations need to be systematically reviewed and restructured to engage a greater audience.
“We need to get Indigenous people listening first to Indigenous media, we can’t really have TV stations and Aboriginal radio stations if we don’t have listeners listening,” he said.
“We’ve got to strive to get a bigger audience and to do that I think we need to see some real changes around licensing aspects of Indigenous radio, for example, to give us a better opportunity to be able to promote our service to a wider audience.”
Mr Remedio said that local radio stations have also failed to keep up with modern technology, and until they are modernised, will not be able to grow an audience.
“The trajectory has just flatlined, really we haven’t invested at all in modernisation, in the technology transformation which needs to be urgently made,” Mr Remedio said.
“A lot of our remote stations are in dire need of repair; we’ve got real problems with our tower structures out on these remote communities.
“The whole Indigenous network needs to go through this technology transformation to keep up with broadband technology, so that seems to be a big thing that’s holding us back at the moment.”
Another issue Aboriginal radio stations are facing is the isolation of a younger audience, not only as listeners, but also from young people who want to work in the media industry.
Mr Remedio believes young people are the future of Indigenous radio and said older people in the industry need to make it a more welcoming and positive environment for them.
“There’s a lot of young people out there … that we have not let into the house, we have sort of kept the door shut and said you’re not coming in… we’ve let go of a lot young people who have gone and worked in different areas and won’t come back into Indigenous media at all,” Mr Remedio said.
“They won’t come back because of the politics, the family orientated stuff that seems to happen in a lot of these media organisations, and we’re just losing and losing so many of our young people and it’s not fair, it’s not fair on them and it’s not fair on Indigenous media at all.”
Mr Remedio said local Indigenous stations are a great platform to promote young, new artists and tell stories that are unique to Indigenous Australians.
“We’ve got a lot of good talent out there with music, a lot of young talent that I think is good enough for a mainstream audience as well. We should be playing a lot more of that wherever we can,” Mr Remedio said.
“We should be encouraging a lot of Elders and people in communities not to be scared of the radio and to get on and tell their stories and tell them in a way that people can understand them … that push the boundaries in terms of honesty and truth.”
Mr Remedio said Indigenous radio stations are also crucial to providing truthful content about Australian history and culture, as well as giving access to important information for Aboriginal Australians.
“I think it’s very important from the point of view of getting all of the truth telling stuff out there, a lot of the historical stuff that’s happening around the country needs to be told and the best place to tell that is on Indigenous media,” he said.
“It’s radio for information services, it’s radio to assist our people in closing the gap and getting good jobs, good employment, good health, and it’s about resuming language and culture.”
Mr Remedio said there needs to be an urgent call to action from the Government to address these concerns within the community.
“It would be great to see either the Minister for Communications or Ken Wyatt [Minister for Indigenous Australians to] really get involved and really scratch the surface of this Indigenous media,” Mr Remedio said.
“It needs a taskforce; it needs a five-year plan and we need to get involved and do something about it because it’s no good the way it is.”
By Sarah Mozley