Regional Victoria’s first radio station for the vision impaired will celebrate 20 years on the airwaves next week.
Vision Australia Radio (VAR) began broadcasting in Mildura on Thursday March 12 1998.
Formerly known as Radio for the Print Handicapped (RPH) Mildura, the station started with one local news program and a team of 20 volunteers.
Today, thousands of people tune in to 107.5 FM every day to listen to community stories, interviews, readings from newspapers, magazines and books, and specialist topics including new technology, health and wellbeing, finance, food and wine, and gardening.
More than 300 people have volunteered at the station as presenters, readers and technical operators over the past two decades, and currently about 40 volunteers work at the station.
Bet Aitken was part of the original team of volunteers and was chosen to read on the first broadcast.
Mrs Aitken, who had moved to Australia from Scotland 20 years earlier, was afraid she wouldn’t come across well on radio as her accent was still very strong.
“We got through the first show, and everything seemed to go well,” she said.
“When we opened the door to leave the studio, we saw the whole room was filled with people.”
“They had all been invited to listen, but nobody told us!
“Thank goodness we were happy with what had gone to air, because they also put it on the Melbourne station – it was such a big deal that we were the first regional station.”
Mrs Aitken, who is now 76 years old, still reads on the Mildura once a week and teaches new volunteers how it’s done.
A former nurse, Mrs Aitken knew she wanted to help people from a very young age.
“I worked in the disability sector for a long time, and after I moved to Mildura and retired, I volunteered in the community,” she said.
“When Vision Australia advertised for volunteers to help launch a local radio program, I knew it was my next step.”