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Sunday, 16 June, 2019,07:09

On Black Saturday … when all else failed amateur radio worked. Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh (WB6ACU) explains


The following is a QST.

Melbourne’s police, fire, ambulance, aircraft, taxis, Nillumbik Shire, Department of Justice, and more rely on the radio towers at Frank Thomson Reserve (Lady Stonehaven’s Lookout) in Kinglake Central.

All communication facilities in Kinglake can be viewed here. (KML file for Google Earth).

The towers – some call them ugly – keep our local emergency services ‘on the air’. On Black Saturday (February 7, 2009) they failed and our local police and CFA lost radio communications for a few minutes.

Amateur radio operator, and editor of Kinglake Ranges News, Ashley Geelan (VK3HAG) kept Kinglake’s police and CFA on the air so they could communicate with control centres in Melbourne.

Geelan used three radios* and a four-wheel drive car battery to keep the emergency services on the air.

The Eagle’s famous guitarist, Joe Walsh (WB6ACU) explains why amateur radio is important. Even with today’s technology, it is still amateur ‘ham’ radio that works as a communications network when all else fails.

It’s why the military still have Signals.


VIDEO: American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Used with permission. 

In the United States, and most other nations, amateur ‘ham’ radio is an integral part of emergency communications. but isn’t integrated into Australia’s emergency communications in the same way as overseas. Think September 11, Hurricane Katrina, London bombings. Think Amateur Radio.

On Black Saturday, Australia’s amateur radio emergency service, WICEN was activated for the first time since Ash Wednesday in February 1983. In most other countries it is standard practice to have standby amateur radio systems ‘ready to go’ at all times.

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Ashley Geelan’s (VK3HAG) amateur radio equipment that kept Kinglake’s emergency services on the air on Black Saturday. The radios used are to the left, back up batteries are to the bottom left of photo. (2009)

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The antennae hooked in to the radio’s (above photo) that kept Kinglake on the air. (2009)


Ashley Geelan is amateur radio operator VK3HAG and learnt communications at the Australian Army Defence Force School of Signals, (Simpson Barracks, Macleod)  in the 1990s.

*Radios used were a dual-band Yaesu FT-8800R for VHF and UHF FM (Police and CFA) and an Icom 706MKIIG for SES and providing information outside Victoria via HF SSB.


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