Sunday, November 30, 2014


The ABC - what can be written that hasn't been written before!?!

I guess I can only give my personal experience, which started when I was very young.

I grew up on ABC comedy - Norman Gunston, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, The Big Gig, Ab Fab, The Late Show, Frontline, Blackadder, The Chaser just to name a small handful. Homegrown and from overseas. ABC knew what was quality.

ABC also produced my beloved Andrew Denton, national treasure and hero to all Australian geeks.

And great drama and documentaries. Hello Colin Firth in THAT shirt in THAT pond in Pride and Prejudice. Early classical yearnings with Derek Jacobi in I Claudius. Attenborough documentaries. Doctor Who. Redfern Now. Again, too much to even begin listing.

And then there was music: Rage, Rock Arena, and my beloved Countdown.

There is a line in Seinfeld where Elaine says to Jerry, "All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons." Well, all MY knowledge of any culture comes from ABC.

As I got older I tuned more into news and current affairs programs, ever since news interested me I have ONLY EVER retrieved it from ABC. To me their commitment to truth and transparency is not only the singular way one should receive news but the gold standard.

And in the last decade or so, I have tuned into ABC radio. Local ABC radio and learnt more from the fabulous commentaries by fabulous commentators. People who seemed like my friends, and certainly felt like family, and some even became my friends.

1233 Newcastle is more than valuable to our region, they ARE Newcastle (and The Hunter). They inform and entertain us - in good times and in bad.

I really do not think anyone can mention the horrific Pasha Bulker Storm weekend without simultaneously thinking of 1233 ABC. Stunning work around the clock by dedicated professionals.

Everyone that works there, the names and faces we know well, the ones we hear about, and those that tirelessly work behind the scenes ensuring we the listeners get our radio delivered in that professional way...they are all superb, considerate human beings.

And so these cuts to ABC in general and specifically to Newcastle are beyond devastating. There's nothing I can say about that, that others have not said before me. I'm gutted and cranky!

But let me add my own extra personal spin on it.

Over the past few years I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some 1233 ABC staff and their kindness and knowledge and generosity and supreme professionalism have consistently blown my mind. I want to thank them here, and pay homage to their skills and assistance.

I guess this means I am going to single out a few people, which I am loathe to do, when really 1233 ABC are a team of people who work beautifully together.

Sophie Elinor has written a superb piece about those who did loose their jobs, please read it here.

My first experience with 1233 ABC was roving reporter, Anthony Scully, heading out to my library to do an interview and report on a youth art collaboration my team had completed with the local high school. I was nervous, this was my first experience with being interviewed, but Anthony was so laid back and cool about the whole thing I soon forgot what we were doing would even go on the radio. It was great exposure for my library and for my team and the community. I will always be eternally grateful. This is the kind of thing 1233 ABC does ALL the time.

Years later I got to know Anthony through Twitter and his new project ABC Open. He came out to do a workshop on the 500 Words Project. This project gives a voice to anyone in the community and allows them to publish online autobiographical pieces on a particular subject. I gathered a group of locals I thought would be interested in the workshop and joined in myself. What a blast, so much so I have continued with the project monthly for the past two years. During this time Anthony has been an awesome mentor and a friend, helping promote the project and assisting me with the group.

The project also produced a superstar in my beloved borrower, James 'Doug' Cunningham (a few months off 98 at present), and Anthony championed him as I knew he would. This is what 1233 ABC does!

This is the short film Anthony shot in Swansea Library with the group and Doug a few years back.

Some of our group also were selected to read a story each at last years Newcastle Writer's Festival, what a thrill and a privilege. And all due to 1233 ABC. So to Anthony and to Bronwyn Purvis (who filled in for Anthony some months back) I consider you friends and colleagues, and I am eternally grateful for your assistance and kindness.

I have also had the pleasure of 'working' briefly with Jenny Marchant and Sophie Elinor on the most wonderful Treasure Hunter...a right of passage for all Novocastrians. If you don't know Treasure Hunter, shame on you!! It's an entertaining program produced every Saturday between 10am and 12noon, where two people in the studio try to solve cryptic clues (along with the valuable 1233 ABC listeners and staff in the ABC car) that take you all over the Hunter looking for 'treasure'. And so some months back I got 'hoodwinked' into joining my friend Robert LIVE on air. I was so nervous but ended up having a blast due to the professionalism and friendliness of Jenny and Sophie, and of course the knowledge of Robert and the wonderful 1233 ABC listeners.

And finally I don't even have words that describe how I feel for the beautiful, intelligent, and talented Carol Duncan. Carol is an engaging and charismatic announcer I have had the pleasure of listening to for many years. When I joined Twitter she was someone I followed, and I never thought for a minute we would become friends, but life is funny and strange and wonderful like that sometimes. I followed her because she had an excellent grasp on social media and I felt I could learn something. In my own vocation it was obvious social media was the place to be and who to learn from but people who really knew their stuff. And Carol Duncan really knew her stuff!!!

And so one afternoon, Carol tweeted and I replied and she replied back! Gobsmacked, that golden voice took time to type something to ME! I shouldn't have been so surprised, this is what Carol does best.

Sidebar: As I am typing this, Carol is making friends online with someone who is a friend of a friend of mine in Melbourne, and saying well Michael is a friend of Cathy's and she's my friend!!! This is why we love you Carol (and Twitter!!!)

And so the conversations continued, and through Carol (and another lovely Tweep, Sarah) I made some of the very best friends I have ever had in my life. And of course got to meet her in person, and she is even lovelier than she is on air. The first time I met Carol, she gave me a present of her amazing honey...who does that!?! Through Carol and other tweeps I was introduced to Anita Heiss and managed an author tour with her earlier this year and Carol jumped at the chance to assist me and officially launch Anita's book.  Carol has even interviewed me on air about the Bruce Springsteen concert. And she has always been an avid supporter of public libraries, for that I am eternally grateful.

But mostly she has been a friend, and one I cherish and adore. And she is always there to listen and offer advice or a hug - she gives the most amazing hugs, even when she is going through crap herself she will always put others first. We have all seen that this week, when going through such a dark period in her life, when others would run for the covers, she spends her days being interviewed by the masses and becomes, unintentionally, the face of ABC cuts. I know her family, her husband and her two remarkable boys, and they are hurting for her as we all are. But she is a strong, independent woman and she will go far.

And yet she starts this up, a project, Love Your Aunty, for the 'fallen' 400 to place their names and skills on a database and hopefully gain employment. Bloody hell, if that is not Saintliness I don't know what is!

I think what I will miss the most about my friend Carol on air is her Friday afternoon music show. All her interviews and insights are divine, but her knowledge and love of music is superb. She champions local musicians of all types and allows them to share her airwaves and showcase their talent. This is almost unheard of elsewhere and now will be gone, shameful and upsetting. But her legacy will live on in those she assisted. She should be so proud of all she has achieved at 1233 ABC, because I was proud to listen to her way before I knew her personally, and like everyone else this week my heart was breaking for her loss.

I could go on but this post is already much longer than I intended. I also know there are a zillion television programs I have omitted above, trust me, I've seen anything seminal or important or indie or cult that ABC has ever produced, I just didn't want this to be a list of TV.

So what can we learn from this or do to help?

Vote with caution and consideration (thank god I always have, but sometimes even that is not enough), praise your local ABC wherever you are and complain long and hard!

I attended the Newcastle rally a few weeks back but was unable to attend the Sydney one or the one at 1233 ABC studios last week. If any more of these are organised, I feel it is our civic duty to attend them if possible.

You can write to your local member or email:

And you can lodge a complaint here:  

And most of all, as Carol Duncan says, Love Your Aunty!!!!!!!

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