Shepparton Anniversary

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from April 1st 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

Soon after the onset of the European Conflict in 1939, discussions took place between the imperial leaders in London and the government leaders in Canada and Australia. These discussions focused on the setting up of large international shortwave stations for use as a possible backup for the BBC Empire Service in England. Work moved ahead in both countries, and two large shortwave bases were established; Sackville in Canada for Radio Canada International and Shepparton in Australia for “Australia Calling”.

Site surveys for the Australian shortwave station were conducted in many areas of south eastern Australia, and finally the decision settled upon a grassland location of 600 acres in the fertile fruit-growing Goulburn valley of central Victoria. This site was reasonably accessible to the three major cities, Canberra, Sydney & Melbourne, and it was suitable propagationally for a large shortwave station.

The main transmitter hall was completed in February 1943, and even though it was designed to contain three transmitters, yet none could be found. Finally, an agreement was reached with the United States, and a 50 kW RCA transmitter, originally allocated to the “Voice of America”, was diverted for installation at Shepparton.

The agreement between the American and Australian governments included a proviso that this lendlease transmitter should also carry a relay of programming from the “Voice of America”. Thus it was, that the 90 minute daily program, the “Philippine Hour”, was heard on relay from “Australia Calling” in Australia for a year or two.

This new lendlease transmitter from the United States was installed at Shepparton and it was inaugurated on May 1, 1944 with programming co-ordinated in the ABC studios in Melbourne and fed by landline to the shortwave transmitter at Shepparton, a distance of 120 miles.

Two additional transmitters at 100 kW were manufactured in Sydney as a joint effort between AWA & STC and these were installed at Shepparton under the callsigns VLA & VLB. A total of 19 antennas were erected at Shepparton, mostly curtains with passive reflectors.

Transmitter VLA was inaugurated on August 15, 1945, and just four days later, VLB was inaugurated. All three of these transmitters incorporated two channels of programming acess.

In preparation for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melboune, two new transmitters were installed at Shepparton. Another American made RCA unit at 50 kW was designated as VLD, and an Australian made STC unit at 10 kW was designated as VLY.

Soon afterwards, during a modernization program, one of the channels in each of the three transmitters at Shepparton was split off and incorporated into a new transmitter. The newly derived transmitters were activated with the callsigns VLC, VLE, and VLF. However, the callsigns in use at Shepparton became so complicated that they were abandoned at the end of October 1961.

These days, there are seven transmitters at 100 kW carrying exclusively the international programming of Radio Australia. One of these units propagates a remarkably good signal across the Pacific into North America around the sunrise hour on 9580 kHz.

Over the years, many very picturesque QSL cards have been issued to verify transmissions from the Shepparton site and many of the earlier editions are now collector’s items. The current QSL card features the Australian kangaroo in a sunset scene.

Just last Thursday, May 1, Radio Australia Shepparton was remembering its 59 th anniversary.

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