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History of Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS)

BRACS is a network of community broadcast stations. Each BRACS unit costs between $30 000 and $40 000.

Twenty-two of the designated BRACS installations located in the Top End of the Northern Territory are under the following regional councils:

Jabiru Nhulunbuy Katherine
Nguiu Ramingining Bulman
Pularumpi Milingimbi Beswick
Milikapiti Gapuwiyak Barunga
Minjilang Galiwinku Ngukurr
Warrawi Yirrkala Daguragu
Oenpelli Umbakumba Numbulwar
Maningrida Angurugu Lajamanu

Prior to the launch of the Aussat satellite in 1985, there were no mainstream television or radio re-transmission services available in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island communities.

With the coming of the satellite launch in 1985, it heightened concerns by the community of the impact mainstream television and radio services would have on their culture.

In response to these concerns, the Government at the time, set up a task force chaired by Eric Wilmot, head of Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA), to investigate the media needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

From his investigations came the report, Out of Silent Lands, published in 1984. The report recommended that basic satellite receiving and re-transmission equipment be installed into 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities throughout Australia, the project came to be referred to as Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS).

What was achieved
Initially the recommendations from the DAA report, were to spend approximately $250 000 per site on both radio and video equipment, this was later reduced to approximately $30 000 per site. For this, each community would receive a basic broadcast facility fitted out with domestic and semi professional equipment.

Each station would have the capacity to broadcast two FM radio services, the ABC and the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) service. Two UHF television services were also provided, broadcasting programs from ABC and IMPARJA, the Central Australian Aboriginal television service, part of CAAMA.

To address the concerns by the community of the impact mainstream television and radio services would have on their culture, switching facilities were provided that gave the ability to control undesirable material from being broadcast - the offending program, radio or video, could be switched off and local program inserted.

Equipment used
The original BRACS design comprised a wooden cabinet that housed all the radio and video replay and transmission equipment that included satellite receivers, UHF transmitter and FM transmitters. Located outside in close proximity to the BRACS room was a satellite dish and a nine metre guyed, pipe mast.

bracs system
Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA

The transmission side generally consisted of two 20 watt, rack mounted FM transmitters, giving a range of approximately 15km and 2 watt UHF rack mounted television transmitters, this equipment was located in the rear of the consoles.

Each unit was fitted with a switching panel to select the desired radio or video program for broadcast, the radio side consisted of a dual cassette deck, tuner and stereo amplifier with monitor speakers, and a microphone mounted on a desk stand for local broadcasting.

The video equipment installed was of domestic quality and included:

  • 2 VHS video recorder/players
  • a television set that doubled as a monitor
  • a portable video camera for local production work. The camera could be connected to the switching panel, allowing live to air broadcasting.

Telecom (now Telstra), were contracted to manage the project and purchase and install the equipment. The first trial unit was installed at Jigalong, in the Pilbara. The last unit was installed in late 1991, with 80 units installed Australia wide. The final cost for this project was close to $3m.

Components of the original BRACS
Components of the original BRACS set-up. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA

BRACS sites were set up in the following areas:

  • Pilbara and Kimberley region of Western Australia
  • northern area of South Australia
  • throughout the Northern Territory
  • north Queensland
  • Torres Strait Islands.
Equipment interconnections
Equipment interconnections. Courtesy: TEABBA

Click here for more detail on how the BRACS network developed.


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