Founded in 1993, Gadigal Information Service (GIS) has been broadcasting the news and views of the Aboriginal community for the past two decades. Named after the traditional owners of the inner-Sydney area, it is a driving force and outlet for the Indigenous community and has created a profoundly positive effect in turn.
“It has given our people a voice, re-instilled a sense of pride and cultural identity. It’s enabled our community to tell our story from our perspectives rather than all the stereotyping mainstream media has done,” explains Lily Shearer, General Manager of the Gadigal Information Service.
“They continue to stereotype us in lots of ways. They don’t tell good news stories – I suppose good news doesn’t sell papers.”
However, there is a lot of good news to share.
GIS as an organisation has created arts-based programs such as Young, Black and Deadly, which provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under 18 to learn performance skills from established Indigenous artists.
One of the program’s better-known alumni is Casey Donovan who went on to win Australian Idol’s second series at the tender age of 16. Donovan has since returned to Young, Black and Deadly as a tutor, giving back to the next generation.
“When I was youth working in Western Sydney, I used to take my kids to the workshops,” explains Shearer.
“My kids got a lot out of those workshops. They may not have became superstars but they didn’t ever reoffend.”
Also part of GIS is Koori Radio, Sydney’s only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander full-time community radio station. Koori Radio exclusively gives airtime to Indigenous music from around the world and plays a critical role in providing a platform for Indigenous musicians.
“The other thing that is really unique about Gadigal Information Service and Koori radio is that we are the only black station in the nation,” says Shearer.
“[Koori Radio] plays Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, other Indigenous music, and world black music. We have other Indigenous programs too. We have Fijian shows, Samoan, African, Jamaican.”
Koori Radio streams live on the web and surprisingly Shearer says there are a lot of European listeners, “We have a lot from Paris and Germany in particular.”
GIS not only gives a voice to the Indigenous community it also gives the world an insight into a community that is stronger than ever.
As part of the 20-year celebration of GIS, Carriageworks has joined forces to honour this ground-breaking community service, including a look at what it has achieved and how the organisation has grown.
The Live and Deadly – 20 Years of the Gadigal Information Service project will feature exhibitions, interactive forums and live events aimed at sparking debate and educating the public about the rich history of the people, area and above all this important organisation.
The Live and Deadly Exhibition explores iconic moments in Redfern’s rich and layered history from riots to the ongoing life of The Block. Koori Radio has broadcast these and many more significant events into homes and backyards over the past two decades and the free exhibition combines personal archives, film works, radio recordings and photography to bring these events to life through the eyes of the people that were there.
“Carriageworks commissioned ten film portraits of ten prominent people that have had a connection to Gadigal and then they were interviewed by some of our broadcasters,” explains Shearer.
“There is a sound lounge where you can listen to some old interviews, like the Paul Keating speech at Redfern, also our first ever broadcast when we were testing transmissions.”
Shearer continues, “By piecing together these important artefacts, we are also helping to preserve these stories for today’s residents and future generations to follow.”
The project also acknowledges the hugely important role that GIS has played in Aboriginal media and music.
“For a not-for-profit Aboriginal community organisation to have such a national impact is humbling,” says Shearer.
“It also carries a huge responsibility for us to continue to grow into the future.”
Live and Deadly will also present two important industry forums to instigate in-depth discussions among community leaders and artists about the future of the Aboriginal radio and music industry.
This is ultimately a celebration, to honour a service that has stood the test of time for two decades and continues to grow and provide powerful story-telling,
thought-provoking debate and contemporary music to the Indigenous community.
Redfern has long been the home of cultural and political trailblazers and progressive thinkers, so where better to inspire more of the same than at Carriageworks with Live and Deadly – 20 Years of the Gadigal Information Service. (LL)
Jun 27-Aug 1, Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Redfern, Free, carriageworks.com.au