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Internship Abroad at Noongar Radio Station

(Trisha Dunham / The Index) (Trisha Dunham / The Index)

Wayne Bynder never intended to become a broadcast presenter; his dream profession was to become a filmmaker. However, when the opportunity arose for him to pursue broadcasting, he took it.

Initially the decision was based on the necessities of life. At the time, broadcasting offered him a paid position and room for growth, while his career in filmmaking had hardly even started. With time, he began to enjoy the profession, soon his aspiration to become a filmmaker became a thing of the past.

“So that’s what I do, and now 30+ years later I’m still doing this sort of job,” said Bynder. “I started out as a volunteer but I soon found my way into getting paid to do what I love doing. Which is getting behind the mic and talking.”

For the past three months I have had a chance to work with and shadow Bynder as an intern at the Noongar Radio station in Perth, Western Australia. Over this period of time I have observed many of his work routines, approaches, personal stylistic characteristics, as well as received professional advice from him. Having also interned at the WMUK NPR station back in the United States, which one may consider a more traditional style radio station, I have been able to compare and contrast the different experiences. Although the two settings could not be more different, I have learned a great deal from both.

While at the Noongar radio station the overall approach of Bynder as a presenter is relaxed and laid back, similar to the overall culture of Australia. Once I have written the script he fact checks and runs through it once before recording. While recording he will read the different sections on a single track, often going back and rereading a section in different tones. From the beginning of recording to the finalization of the story, the process is less than 45 minutes.

His approach at first was shocking to me and appeared unprofessional. However, once I had a chance to interact with the work as well as the listeners more in-depth, his approach became clear.

Bynder is able to approach his work with such a relaxed laid back demeanor due to his previous course work while at university, along with extensive work experience.

“A lot of it is learning on the job, there are also courses to learn skills for it, “ said Bynder. “A lot of it is doing something and listening and saying boom I can do that a lot better. Or listening to others and saying what they’re doing is quite good I’m going to do that next time.”

After he joined the broadcasting community he was contacted to join ABC, Australian Broadcast Company as a broadcaster and program director. He said he was enthused to get the opportunity to work as a straightforward broadcaster, especially in such a big market. However with time he began to miss the life of the Aboriginal radio station.

“I became a bit bored because all that I was doing was broadcasting,” said Bynder. “Where as in Aboriginal radio you are managing, training, trying to get funding, getting someone on the phone who’s telling you which wire to cut and which wire to take out, which piece of equipment and what you need to do with that piece of equipment to fix it, especially in remote areas.”

With this realization Bynder decided to take a job outside of Kimberly in Kununurra, to work with the locals and establish a radio station in the area. In transitioning from the ABC to a local Aboriginal focused radio station Bynder said that his approach to stories and radio in general shifted.

With time he has created a relaxed approach to the work because of his extensive experience. However, he said that his relaxed approach has allowed him to create his personal style, a style that he has adapted for the Aboriginal radio community specifically.

“Within the Aboriginal broadcasting context there is a specific community you’re broadcasting to,” said Bynder. “Yes everybody else can hear it but you can tend to be aboriginal centered if you like. You can talk about things and explain things that are of interest to that community.”

A similar conversational-type of style of broadcasting is a goal at both of the stations that I have worked at. “Some of the principals of broadcasting are much the same,” said Bynder. “The way you deal with content in an Aboriginal context is different.”

The manner that Bynder deals with content specifically in the Aboriginal context is focused on understanding and sympathy, specifically during the interviewing phase.

During an interview with an Aboriginal woman concerning her mental healthy ailments he rarely spoke. Bynder allowed the interviewee to speak for a majority of the 25-minute interview. Although the interview took a great deal longer and would be on air for a great deal longer the story of the woman was more important than the amount of airtime it took. This is just one of many stories that exemplify the overall style that is preferred at Noongar Radio: the opportunity to give voice to aboriginal people, their successes, difficulties, and overall lives.

“Why do we exist as a Noongar radio station because so many others aren’t doing the stories that are important to our community,” Bynder said. “ They aren’t getting the people on, aren’t supporting Aboriginal music, aren’t talking about community things.”

Bynder acknowledged that there is a variation in style from ABC and the Aboriginal radio. “One’s a bit more relaxed the others a bit more into it for a large audience,” he said. “The ABC has standards there are also the issues of balance.”

Although balance is necessary at a large news organization such as ABC said Bynder, he prefers the opportunity to be what he calls “Aboriginal focused” at the Noongar radio station.

One of the main differences between my internship at WMUK NPR and Noongar radio is the work routine of my mentors. Although both are extremely dedicated and hard workers, Bynder at Noongar radio has a great deal more to manage, therefore his work encompasses more portions of the station.

Initially, Bynder desired a straightforward broadcasting type of work routine, however with time he decided that was not where his interests lie.

“Even before I went to the ABC I was into management. I thought I just want to do broadcasting but I just felt like The Voice,” Bynder said. “I found it different and difficult to deal with cause I was used to doing a whole range of things; mind you it did gave me an opportunity to perfect my craft.”

Although he acknowledged the positives of the work routine at ABC, mainly the focus on his craft, the other aspects of managing a radio meant more to him. To Bynder being an Aboriginal broadcaster is not about being the voice on air but also the behind the scenes work; managing, training, trying to get funding, fixing equipment, and community outreach, among many of the other daily tasks.

While I am only with him for one day a week he completes the jobs of not only broadcasting his program and the news, but a multitude of other tasks. He contacts businesses, festivals, and event organizers for funding, mentors myself, and then during his lunch break he heads off to meet with a group of students. The work routine does not have a singular focus on being a broadcast presenter instead there are many focuses, which to Bynder are all equally important.

However, in his context of a presenter his work routine continues to carry on the relaxed style that he applies to his tone while presenting. Although he is able to complete stories quickly, there is no rush to the process.

While shadowing and working with Bynder I have learned a great many things, yet the most important things that I have been able to take away thus far are his words of advice.

The first piece of advice that he had to offer to me did not focus so much on the skills but the mindset necessary for a broadcast presenter. “You can do all the courses but if you don’t have to mindset at the time to say the things you need to say, to do those things you need to do, you won’t make it, “ he said. “As you know as a broadcaster once the microphone is open it’s gone it’s gone…that’s the exciting part.” I think that this piece of information will be most necessary while I am out in the field reporting a story. I can imagine that there will be many times in which my skills will not be enough for me to get the story. I will need the desire to pursue and cover the story.

The second piece of advice that Bynder had for me had to do with mistakes, one of the most frightening parts of becoming a broadcaster for me. “Yes everybody makes mistakes. You can’t do much about it,” he said. “If you’re broadcasting live you say well that’s a mistake I know that’s a mistake and you move on, you recover very quickly, you make the next part of your broadcast the best that you’ll ever do.” The last portion of his advice provided a much-needed positive outlook on the aftermath of mistakes. There is no way to erase past mistakes, but you can make the next portion the best you can.

The third and final piece of advice that Bynder had for me is perhaps my favorite that I have gotten from anybody. Not only did this final piece of advice inspire me to try new things but also to continue to be critical of myself.

“Prepare as best you can. Understand the topics and subjects as best you can. Don’t be afraid to have a go at things. If you’re prerecording things if you think it’s not right it’s not right so go back and edit it,” Bynder said. “Listen to yourself as much as you can, cause if you can’t stand listening to yourself, do you think others want to listen to you?”

Although this final piece of advice seems obvious once hearing it, I would never have personally thought of it. I believe it to be true that we are our own harshest critics, so why not utilize that as presenters? If we do not appreciate what we are hearing from ourselves than why would we expect others to? If you do not like it, change it.

The experience that I have had while working with, shadowing and interviewing Wayne Bynder cannot be compared to any other that I have had before. Although Bynder is no longer a commonplace name, as he once was when he worked at ABC, his work routines, approaches, personal stylistic characteristics, as well as the professional advice that I have received from him remain equally as vital.

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Internship Abroad at Noongar Radio Station