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Enough is enough. It’s time the O’Farrell Government started to take the needs of Upper Hunter residents seriously and stopped taking us for granted. In 2011-12, the mining industry contributed $1.486 billion to the State’s coffers, the bulk of which comes from Muswellbrook and Singleton Local Government areas, yet all we are promised is a share in $160 million dollars through the Resources for Regions program.

The fact that we’ve only received a share in $10 million since the March 2011 State election is startling enough, but when we look at the sleight of hand approach to delivering that money, we can’t help but be astounded. Resources for Regions was supposed to fund much needed local infrastructure in mining-affected areas however Muswellbrook has seen its paltry share spent on State infrastructure.

There’s no secret that Muswellbrook Hospital is in dire need of an upgrade that will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $60 million. NSW Health says this. Hunter New England Health says it. In fact, NSW Health says it should be a priority in the health budget. An even higher priority is the upgrade of the hospital’s ailing emergency department which we’re told will cost around $12 million. Yet only $4 million has been allocated and not from the health budget, but from Resources for Regions which should be spent on local roads and facilities.

This brings us to the real travesty – the lack of aged care facilities. Muswellbrook hospital is home to 18 high-dependency, aged care beds, all of which occupy space on the hospital’s ground floor where the new emergency department is slated to be built. Our local member George Souris has promised that no resident requiring aged care will be relocated outside the local government area, yet no concrete plans for a promised new aged care facility are in place. We’re told that current aged care patients will be accommodated somewhere within the hospital, but what about the ever increasing requirements of an ageing population?

It’s time this Government stopped treating what they think is a “safe seat” as a cash cow. Sooner or later the cow needs to be fed.



For me, radio is religion.  It’s the good word and I’m a believer.  But like any religion, sometimes even the most devout followers can experience a crisis of faith.  Mine came towards the end of last year when I seriously considered leaving the industry.  Ex-communicating myself, if you will.  Regional radio dogma was getting me down.  The holy grail of capital city radio felt forever out of reach.  I was in limbo.   But somehow, I found my faith again.

I remember my first paid radio shift like it was yesterday: the clunky and unfamiliar panel; the strange play-out system; the sounds of the Pacific Highway rumbling through what was supposed to be my sound-proof studio.   I’d scored a job at a local radio station in a pretty coastal town after leaving my high flying, high paying job as an auctioneer.  This was it. No turning back. I was packing it.

What if my AFTRS training wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? What if I’m not cut out for this? Can I do this?  I had so many questions but I had to keep the faith.  I slid the fader up and started talking.  I was converted.  Hallejuah!  From that moment, I have savoured every second of my time on air.  My big life gamble paid off. The old saying that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life was true. I fact, I hadn’t hit the snooze button since I began working in radio – that is until a few months ago.

The genesis of my crisis of faith is a little cloudy but probably began when I made the move to a new station.  My career started at 2HC Coffs Harbour, a Super Radio Network Station.  I was the new afternoon announcer and management wasn’t expecting miracles.  I was sharing the airwaves with my long time idol, John Laws! I put my head down and worked hard.  Someone upstairs must have been listening.  Within a few months I’d won the Best Newcomer On-Air ACRA.  Metro stations started to take notice. Suddenly, I felt like I was walking on water.  I set myself a goal of landing a Sydney gig within five years all the while accepting that if it took longer than that it wouldn’t be a problem because I loved what I was doing.

That’s when things started to unravel. I’d committed the same sin as my contemporaries and started to lose the joy in what I was doing.  I was looking too far ahead and began let things over which I had no control – those things that happen outside the sanctuary of the studio - bother me. I stopped focusing on making great radio where I was and rather lamented that others weren’t making great radio elsewhere. The realisation came one Friday when I had a particularly bad shift but wasn’t angry with myself for doing it. We all have less than stellar days, but what has always driven me is how bad I feel when I don’t get it right. I up until that point had always woken up with the intention of creating the best radio show I possibly can and go to bed with the intention of doing it better tomorrow.

Luckily, I’ve got a great support network. I have a mentor who has guided the careers of some of the greats and some friends in the industry who were thankfully prepared to “slap me out of it” as it were. But the real awakening came thanks to the job itself and the people we all depend on in this crazy business – the listeners. There were instances even in the darkest times, those that potentially could’ve resulted in permanent dead-air, that began to reignite my passion. I have had the opportunity to do some amazing things since I began working on the wireless. I’ve met incredible people, both celebrities and some not so well-known. I’ve had the chance to broadcast from some places that were a lot of fun – celebrity golf days, music festivals, agricultural shows and even the main streets of small country towns with more characters than an old fashioned radio serial.

But the big wake-up call came when I was sitting in a café one day minding my own business over a cup of coffee when an elderly lady, who had no idea who I was, spontaneously struck up a conversation with me. She proceeded to tell me what she’d learned that day. She told me that a new mine was being considered by Muswellbrook City Council, she told me that The Sunny Cowgirls were coming to town and she told me how wonderful this year’s country music awards were – all things I had shared with her on radio a few hours earlier. It was at that point that I realised I had made a difference. I was doing something important. I was a source of information, and a friend to people I had never met.

I’ve found my passion again and I’m enjoying my time on-air and equally enjoying the time it takes to prepare for my on-air work. It took going back to basics. Rediscovering that success is all about doing something well regardless of where you’re doing. Refocusing on the things I’d always told myself – be good at what you’re doing, not what you think you want to do, always strive to be improve and above all else, recognise that I have a responsibility to that person who lets me shares a small part of their life each day, the person who invites me into their home, car or workplace for a few hours every morning. The listener, who despite living in a regional town, deserves great radio just like his cousin in the city does.

Remembering the reasons why I wanted to be a radio announcer in the first place, the desire to tell stories, inform and entertain, is what helped me regain my faith. It gave me back my religion. I feel blessed.


Hats and Manbags

Stephen responds to Tony Windsor's criticism of Bob Katter for carrying a leather briefcase.



Lucky The Superdog

Stephen talks about his best mate, Lucky The Superdog and his dilemma at having to leave Lucky behind when he moves away.



The karmic side of "ride-to-work" day

Stephen discusses the karmic twist of Clover Moore's freedom-hating campaign to rid Sydney's streets of motorists.