Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The First Woman on Australian Rock Radio


It seems unbelievable but there were no female DJs Australian airwaves before 1975. Rock N' Roll was already (arguably) 25 years old, old enough to buy itself a beer in all 50 states. But in Australia it was still an all-male revue, like a 2.97 million square mile Danzig concert. For reference, 1973 was the 50th anniversary of broadcasting in Australia. No I'm not making that up. They printed stamps and everything...

Perhaps that was unfair. In talk programming ladies had been in radio for years. Olive Mellor was answering gardening queries on 3DB in Melbourne as early as 1950. If you want to go all the way back in 1933, Lynn Foster was writing short radio scripts at 2UE in Sydney. But these weren't all on air jobs, and those that were, often were in acting or ladies advice programs such as Women's Session and Banish Drudgery. And of course, soap operas. Popular pre-1960s radio dramas with female announcers and/or voice actors included Leave It to the Girls, Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories, When a Girl Marries, and Portia Faces Life. Btu for some reason ladies were not allowed to flip over a record.

In January of 1975 radio station 1540 "Double J" hired Gayle Austin as a DJ. Austin herself claimed that she was the only woman that bothered to to apply for an on-air gig. She was quoted as saying "Radio in those days was like secret men's business... I was given one midnight-to-dawn shift a week, a move so radical that I was the cause of much negative comment after our first survey of listeners." More here.

ABC had the rights to launch two radio stations and they decided to aim one at what they felt was an un-tapped youth market. Within two months of their debut, the general manager of 3XY, described Double J as "the lowest form of radio this country has produced."  Doubel J talked about sex, criticized religion,and  they mocked advertisements. They were sued by a police commissioner and then the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) began investigating the staff.  The result was a 5.4 share in Sydney.

Gayle Austin worked at the Jays until the purge of 1990. Yes the purge. After 15 years of ruffling feathers ABC quietly replaced senior management, who not-so-quietly fired all senior air staff. There was press, and there were protests, and ABC didn't care. Gayle's career survived the culling and she currently hosts an overnight program on 2SER FM in Sydney. More here.