For 16 Years, as part of NAIDOC Week, 3CR have presented Beyond The Bars, a program that in the face of Australia’s appalling Aboriginal incarnation rates, has made for an opportunity for light to be shed, and voice given to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters from inside prisons and correctional centres across Victoria. The Melbourne Critique spoke with 2017 Broadcaster, Bryan Andy about this programs importance, particularly in the present moment, where facts paint a picture of the unflinching polarities, present in our own backyards.

Introduce us to Beyond The Bars.  With a history that spans 15 years, what were the key issues that this program seeks to address, and Bryan what is your role within the project?

3CR’s Beyond the Bars is a unique project that promotes the voices of Aboriginal People in Victoria’s prisons. It’s been a dedicated NAIDOC broadcast of the station for over 15 years. In light of Australia’s appalling Aboriginal incarnation rates, Beyond the Bars is a vital forum for Aboriginal voices, pride, resilience and rights. I was so very honoured to be a broadcaster in the 2017 series.

What have been some of the most positive outcomes over the course of this program’s life?

From my perspective, I think the longevity of 3CR’s Beyond the Bars has made an indelible impact on NAIDOC Week every July, and an indelible impact on the lives of those willing to express themselves on air. As a broadcaster, a positive outcome was the rapport and sense of solidarity that Beyond the Bars offered for inmates.

Our Brothers and Sisters on the inside were aware of the broadcasts and there was a beautiful, staunch and proud buzz that we were able to glean an insight into. As a broadcaster with over five years of experience, gaining that rapport takes trust, and 3CR and the Project Team have really nailed that in my eyes.

Why are these stories that are being told so important and need to be heard by and in the greater context of Australian society?

Australia gets away with so many – too many! – human rights violations, and so projects like Beyond the Bars allow for insight into voices that are otherwise shunned or excluded from public discourse in the country. Australia asserts itself as an egalitarian society but the way we treat refugees and asylum seekers is appalling.

The marriage equality postal vote is really all about using the democracy to whip minorities; it’s the same dehumanising process that sees Aborginal people incarcerated at such appalling rates. Projects like Beyond the Bars are vital in offering both hope and an alternative narrative to the many myths and the bullshit that exist within Australia.

The power of story – how does this best work in the framing of a radio show, and who have been some of the key supporters of this project over the course of its existence?

Aboriginal people are so marginalised in Australian society. One just has to look at the disadvantage experienced in areas such as education, health and employment. Framing a politically potent radio broadcast on how these factors may manifest and lead to Aboriginal Peoples entering into the criminal justice system is a challenging story to tell but Beyond the Bars does that well. Listening to the published broadcasts gives us all an accessible insight into the lives of Aboriginal people that is incomparable and without peer. That’s why I love radio.

The prisons themselves really support this project because it provides such a unique program for the men and women inside. The project has also enjoyed financial support from many different organisations since it began in 2002, and currently our key supporters are the Community Broadcasting Foundation and the City of Yarra.

What are your hopes for this project and the voices of the people that Beyond The Bars represents?

I hope Beyond the Bars continues to thrive and that it continues to become a celebrated part of the NAIDOC Calendar. One beautiful memory I have of our NAIDOC 2017 broadcasts was being at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre with our Tiddas and listening to two former inmates, Fuddy and Tina, presenting their show just before we crossed live with our first NAIDOC Beyond the Bars. Fuddy and Tina participated with Beyond the Bars while they were both inside and they too got bitten by the radio bug.
They now present ‘Seeking Redemption’ every Monday from 12pm to 1pm on 3CR and I think it’s so deadly to see how Beyond the Bars has had an impact on their lives. It’s given them a voice. The project has so much worth above and beyond what’s broadcast every NAIDOC Week, and Fuddy and Tina are a beautiful, staunch testament to that.