Making waves – the Indigenous radio presenter with vision loss

It’s been a big year for Sandy Dann. The Indigenous radio presenter is celebrating thirty years in broadcasting. A proud Nyul Nyul woman, her daily radio program on 6GME Radio Goolarri (link opens in new window) reaches the heart of the Indigenous community. Sandy contracted congenital rubella at a young age and is vision impaired.

Sandy Dann stands in a leafy area next to some foliage
Sandy is a proud Nyul Nyul woman and a well known Indigenous broadcaster

The experienced presenter broadcasts a two-hour magazine-style radio program that airs every day of the week. Guests talk about local, topical issues of importance. The second hour of her program is networked live to the whole of Australia on the National Indigenous Radio Service.

“I touch on many different subjects important to indigenous people – from health to housing, land issues, to consumer protection issues.”

Sandy Dann – Indigenous broadcaster and VisAbility client

“These past two years I’ve worked hard on COVID-19 messaging, trying to prevent the spread of the infectious disease into remote Indigenous communities.”

Sandy says her program incorporates music and chat as well as significant community stories such as fracking.

“The threat of fracking is always an issue for those living in the country. Last week there were anti-fracking protests at Broome Port. People are also concerned about water allocations from the Fitzroy River and the use of the water to support the region.”

Radio beginnings

Sandy is one of seven children. Brought up in a warm, loving home, the radio was a constant presence in her life.

“I could hardly see, so I’d be hearing all these different people talking on the radio. These interviews, the stories about people’s lives would take me to places I never knew about and let my imagination run loose.”

Her first job in radio came about because of luck more than anything.

“I’d been invited to be part of a committee to establish a radio station. I had a day job as a cleaner at the Cable Beach Club, but there was a strike by airline pilots which meant no tourists were coming to Broome. I ended up at 6GME Radio Goolarri as a cleaner and then managed to secure a cadetship.”

NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC is one of the most celebrated events at 6GME Radio Goolarri. It takes place over a two-week period at the end of June and beginning of July and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year’s theme is ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up’.

“It’s perfect in so many ways. ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up’ is about continuing the momentum for change, proving ourselves, and speaking up for our rights.”

Sandy Dann – Indigenous broadcaster and VisAbility client

“More importantly, taking that initiative and courage to get out there to amplify our voice as an indigenous population to see change,” she adds.

Research shows that Indigenous Australians are more likely to suffer from major health issues. As an indigenous radio presenter Sandy hopes the guests she interviews and their messages will encourage people to practise better self-care.

“I’m an Indigenous woman with vision impairment, over 50 years old, in paid employment with good health and have a dream job.”

Sandy Dann – Indigenous broadcaster and VisAbility client

“You could say I’m lucky. It’s hard for indigenous people at the moment with the economy the way it is. The families may be close but the kinship isn’t there anymore. I like to think my radio program is a link in the chain to bring everyone together.”

Apps and assistive tech in everyday life

The world of broadcasting has changed in 30 years. What has made Sandy’s life far easier, both in her workplace and at home is assistive technology. She’s been receiving online support from VisAbility Assistive Technology Officer Emmanuel Lee. She relies heavily on applications or apps on her iPhone and is very impressed with the Seeing AI app. Specifically designed for people with low or no vision, it narrates the world around you.

“Assistive technology opens up so many possibilities. It was a little bit unnerving at first because I was worried about security and using a screen reader and doing so much online shopping and banking. However, I soon realised there’s software to protect data.”

Sandy received O&M (orientation and mobility) instruction from VisAbility. She’s currently putting her O&M skills to work learning to navigate her way to a new radio studio. Goolarri Media which owns the radio station is expanding and moving to a new home next door to the current studio. There are exciting projects in the pipeline.

“Goolarri Media is collaborating with CinefestOz to create a Broome-based Indigenous-focused film festival this year. It will celebrate and honour Indigenous storytellers and filmmakers. I look forward to interviewing some of the talent involved with this project.”

Would you like to know more about Sandy Dann? The Indigenous radio presenter is guest speaker at Blind Citizens WA (BCWA) Annual Forum. It takes place at VisAbility on the 20th of August. If you’d like to attend the event and in addition, become a member of BCWA contact bcwa@westnet.com.au

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