Forged by fire

The idea for a local radio station for Mallacoota and district began back in 1983 when the town faced a serious threat from a bushfire, one of many that were burning in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia at the time.

As the fire approached, most people evacuated their homes and gathered at the waterfront or in the Community Hall, or took to the water in boats. Luckily, on that occasion, a wind change pushed the fire back onto itself and the Mallacoota town centre and homes were left untouched.

With power and telephone lines burnt and no mobile phone service in those days, and with ABC radio not supplying current information, communication in and out of Mallacoota had been non-existent. That narrow escape made it clear that Mallacoota needed better communications for emergencies, and the community decided the best option would be to start a local radio station. After many years of campaigning and planning, 3MGB FM was born in 1992, when a licence to broadcast was issued.

The early days

For its first nine years, 3MGB operated out of a converted flat above one of the petrol stations and then moved into an empty house owned by the school. In 2001, a joint venture was formed between 3MGB and the Mallacoota Arts Council for a shared purpose-built permanent home – the Croajingolong Centre for Communications and the Arts (3CA).

The centre took some time to become a reality, with planning taking place in 2011 and construction works starting in 2013. Finally, in April 2015, 3MGB was able to transmit from the new but not-quite-finished building. A permanent home at last! The Centre was completed and opened in November 2015.

Black summer bushfires 2019-20

In the summer of 2019-20, Mallacoota and the district were again threatened by fire, and there was no last-minute reprieve this time. More than 120 homes and other buildings were lost, much of our wildlife was devastated, and large tracts of wilderness environments were destroyed.

3MGB and its hard-working volunteers played a crucial role in keeping the community informed in the lead-up to the fires, during the crisis and throughout its aftermath. The station was an emergency broadcaster and presenters went through the Watch and Act notices as required by Emergency Management Victoria.

3MGB presenters provided friendly, local voices giving the community on-the-spot and current information, while they were dealing with numerous difficulties behind the scenes including internet issues, loss of power and generator problems.

A small number of volunteers put in an incredible effort during that time, working long hours to keep the station broadcasting as much as they could. For many people without power, and particularly for those who lost mobile phone and internet services as well, a battery-powered radio tuned into 3MGB was one of the few means of communication still available – an important and reassuring presence during a very difficult time.

From 6 January 2020 and throughout the early recovery period, our local SES Controller (and 3MGB presenter) Leo Op Den Brouw provided frequent updates to listeners on the current status of recovery works and other important local information. His calm and informative presence was well received by 3MGB local listeners and appreciated by podcast followers stranded in NSW.

The events of the black summer bushfires of 2019-20 that impacted Mallacoota are captured in episode 7 of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s podcast ‘From the Embers’.