3CR goes ’beyond the bars’

Elanor McInerney
28 June 2007

For the sixth year, Melbourne’s community radio station 3CR (855AM) will conduct live radio broadcasts with Indigenous prisoners during NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week. But 3CR Indigenous broadcaster and musician Kutcha Edwards, who has been part of these unique broadcasts since they began in 2002, would rather they weren’t necessary.

“I’d rather not be doing them at all really”, explained Edwards. “The fact that we’ve got to do it every year means that, obviously, we’ve got members of our community within the justice system.”

3CR’s prison broadcasts provide Indigenous prisoners inside three of Victoria’s prisons — Port Phillip Prison, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and Fulham Prison — their only chance to participate with the community during NAIDOC Week.

“Trying to connect them back to community”, said Edwards, “that’s what the shows are really all about”.

“It goes out on the NIRS [National Indigenous Radio Service] and so people from interstate can send cheerios out to their family”, Edwards said, “and then the families can listen and hear the poems and the cheerios and the songs”.

In the weeks leading up to the broadcasts, which will air as part of a week of Indigenous special programming on 3CR from July 9-13, Edwards conducts music and spoken word workshops in each of the prisons, giving prisoners the opportunity to prepare creative contributions.

“And just for that couple of hours that they’re on radio, nothing really effects them in that time”, Edwards said. “They love it. They absolutely love it. They are the centre of attention for that week.”

“A lot of people would suggest, well, they’re there to be punished for what they’ve done”, however Edwards believes “we are lesser people if we don’t attempt to pick up the people who are perpetrating so-called crimes on society”.

“And we’ve got to figure out what is justice in reality”, he added. “Why are our laws being disrespected every day of the week, and I’m talking about Indigenous law, and yet we have to abide by Australian law?

“It’s systematic racism right across the country and it stems from the top, all the way up to you know where.”

“And the prisoners”, said Edwards, “they’re somebody’s father, somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s brother. And that’s the way we have to look at it, as brothers and sisters too.”

He believes that work is not work if somebody else is benefiting from what you do. “And hopefully”, he explained, “somebody will benefit from not only what I do but what 3CR and all the other broadcasters do during that week”.

3CR’s prison broadcasts will be simulcast on 3KND (1503AM) and, as part of the Beyond the Bars project, highlights will be launched as a CD in November.

[Elanor McInerney is a 3CR broadcaster. Visit http://3cr.org.au for more information.]

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