Setting up a radio broadcast from a remote location is a giant leap of faith. You won’t know for sure if the link will work until minutes before air time. Will people turn up to speak on the radio? Will a thunderstorm knock the power out and leave you sitting silently in the rain?
The best you can do is hope for the best and contact local people long before you get there to ask for their advice and support. When we took our show on the road on Cape York Peninsula in October 2011, we were blown away by the kindness and encouragement the locals gave us.
Like Colin Troyhan, the principal at the Lockhart River State School. Colin had heard we were stuck for somewhere to stay after our broadcast at Lockhart, and organised a spot for us in a vacant teacher house.
Colin has been principal for almost two years, leading a team of 20 staff and about 100 students in this remote indigenous community 800 kilometres from Cairns.
When Colin arrived in Lockhart, he saw a real need for the school to reconnect with the community. He drew on local knowledge, and school attendance has increased from 72 % to somewhere in the mid 80s. He’s clearly very popular with his students, something he ascribes to their thirst for learning.
While he’s relatively knew to Lockhart River, Colin’s passion for indigenous education goes back at least a decade. Listen to my interview with Colin Troyahn.
For the record, our broadcast from Lockhart River went without a hitch. We slept well that night in the teacher house, and had a visit from a lively horse very keen on some mangoes that had fallen from a tree in the yard.
Lockhart is a small community surrounded by beautiful country. Lovely stretches of coast, the stunning Iron Range National Park, the challenging water crossing on Frenchman’s Track, and the amazing Portland Roads and Chili Beach.
For those with a technical curiosity, we get our radio signal out via a small but expensive mojo box. It connects to the mobile phone network via 3G, converts our voices into data and sends that via the Internet back to Cairns. Another mojo box there decodes the data, turns it back into voice and sends it out on the ABC Far North radio network.