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Wireless Hill Celebrates its Centenary

Posted by ken On October - 4 - 2012


Sunday 30th of September, 2012 was the culmination of a series of events to celebrate the centenary of Wireless Hill this year.



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Scheduled events prior included a Sculpture Walk in February/March; an outdoor film night in March; a history of Wireless Hill talk in March; National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week activities during July; a wildflower walk in September, and coming soon, the launch of Richard Rennie’s Encyclopaedia of Western Australian Wirelesses and Gramophones set for 14th October.



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The day was celebrated with free entertainment, a BYO picnic, or the option to buy food and drinks at the site and official speeches.



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Enthusiast groups provided displays of vintage cars in the grounds, and gramophones and wireless receivers in the former wireless operator’s shack.



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Vintage Wireless and Gramophone Club of WA



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Vintage Batyphone receiver



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Vintage gramophones and radios



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Crystal set receivers



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An assortment of vacuum tube thermionic valves


There were also Amateur Radio (HAM) demonstrations.



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Ham radio demonstration


In addition to Morse Code demonstrations with the veteran wireless operators of the Morsecodians Fraternity of Western Australia (Inc.).



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Morse Code sending



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Morse Code receiving


Vintage and veteran car clubs exhibited cars from the eras the wireless station was operational, with displays provided by the Vintage Automobile Association of WA (Inc) and the Veteran Car Club of WA (Inc).



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Vintage Car exhibit at Wireless Hill



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Austin Seven Sports roadster with flyscreens



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Austin 1913 – 10 Horse Power 4 cylinder



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Advertised in the UK as the “Ranelagh” Two-seater



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Wolseley Siddeley chauffeur driven limousine



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A makeshift display has replaced the former detailed collection in the former Telecommunications Museum, since most of the exhibits were dispensed, so there is a lot more work to be done before it takes its final shape as an audio visual presentation. This will be necessary as tangible artefacts relating to the site are in scarce supply… very little has survived.



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All that is left of the Telecommunications Museum


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You may recall our series of articles on the late Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum?


Wireless Hill Future – in six parts


The museum is no longer as comprehensive, and only contains items relevant to the early history of the buildings, of which very little survives as equipment used since 1912.

Fortunately the Australian Museum of Motion Picture and Television (AMMPT) has taken possession of a number of key broadcasting items, which hopefully will go on permanent display once AMMPT has found a home. A museum dealing with the performing arts in the form of cinema, radio and TV.


The wireless station on the site was officially decommissioned in 1967 and vested in City of Melville in August 1969, then named Wireless Hill Park in February of 1971. The original Telecommunications Museum was officially opened on October 14, 1979, which embraced not only the history of morse code communications with shipping, but also traced the history of radio and television broadcasting, the Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and satellite communications, with tangible examples of equipment on display to illustrate how this was made possible, and a wide range of vintage receiving equipment from the dawn of broadcasting to show what the listening public had available.

Now that the museum has been emptied, the City of Melville plan to spruce up the buildings, and implement a new direction, with final completion by 2014.

The improvements include upgrades to park furniture, the playground, lighting and the former aerial’s anchor blocks, altering the entrance to the park and the creation of three wildflower and birdwatching trails so that the public can meander through the 40 hectares of remnant bushland that surrounds the two hectares of park land.

A decision was made by the council to concentrate on the history of what took place on the site, from indigenous occupation to its use as a wireless station and remove the broadcasting, RFDS and satellite exhibits, which were not part of the early european happenings on the site. Unfortunately, that stripped the wider telecommunications theme of the museum, leaving it now with only a limited number of artefacts to illustrate its ship to shore history and early 6PR use. Only a few relics remain of the original site, though there are a number of items which represent the era of morse code.

The wildflowers and wildlife will now be a key theme, as will the indigenous history… following a survey of local ratepayers who mainly use the park for recreational purposes. The Telecommunications Museum had been closed to the general public for a number of years, with tours restricted by appointment only. Under this policy, a limited number of people got the opportunity to enjoy the museum’s attractions. With this scenario, the council deemed the telecommunications theme less important, using visitor statistics to substantiate the argument, in difference to the values of broadcasting industry veterans who saw worth in telling the wider story of a key element in the growth of our State. The Royal Flying Doctor Service alone is a remarkable story that will now be missing from the museum. A life saving institution worthy of much greater recognition, though aeroplanes, peddle radios and remote medical services are not vital elements that parochial ratepayers will have any call for. Particularly with the new Fiona Stanley and St John Hospitals being located on the doorstep.


Here is the Nyoongar explanation to the origins of the site:


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Yagan’s Lookout (Wireless Hill) has always been a significant place for communications. The importance of hills in communications is vital.

The highest level of communications for a group of Aboriginal people that were closely related as one blood called djah-ngoop. Some of the young people that were learning this lived in mia-mias (hut) constructed on the east side. Nyoongar people would go under the kwel (sheoak) trees when it was windy if they did something wrong. The kwel tree is judge and jury.

The first thing to become real and move across the land was Wagarrl (serpent). He was the first to defy the heavy sky that sat on the land and become real, and as he moved across the land he pushed up the hills and the valleys. There was nothing on the land before that. It was flat and featureless.

Wireless Hill fits in with a second level in the Dreaming, the animals nyingarn (echidna) and karda (goanna). Those two always travel together and wherever they go they represent the spirits of those who’ve passed on. So they are very, very important in the Dreaming.


Another focus at Wireless Hill will be the plant life of the park.


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Other telecommunications stories…





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