Woman Dann, Sandra Gertrude

Radio broadcaster

Written by Elaine Rabbitt, Independent Scholar

Sandy Dann is a leading Aboriginal woman broadcaster, at the Broome based Goolarri Media Enterprises (GME) 99.7FM. She has a long involvement in Aboriginal media that spans more than 20 years. Her current affairs programs go to air locally, and regionally through the Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal Media (www.pakam.com.au) and Gumala networks (www.gumala.com.au). Her live broadcasts are also enjoyed by a national audience via the National Indigenous Radio Station (NIRS) www.nirs.org.au.

Dann is a Nyul Nyul woman born in Broome in 1967, a significant year for Aboriginal people due to the historic referendum. She is the third youngest of seven children. 'It was a privilege to grow up in times of change', Sandy says. Having been diagnosed with a visual impairment as a young baby she was taken away to Perth for medical treatment and spent months at a time down south away from her family and Country, being treated for glaucoma in the care of non Aboriginal people. These early childhood experiences of living in two worlds, of commuting back and forth, of living in two cultures, have given her the strength and determination 'to face life for what it really is' (Interview).

Sandy knows when it is time to take up an opportunity. Having grasped standard Australian English early in life, she could speak well and as a necessary means of survival, had the ability to code switch between the two worlds, the two languages and two cultures. In Perth in the late 1960s and 70s she had access to non-Aboriginal people and their lifestyle, to television, which did not reach Broome until 1983 and radio of course. It was ABC radio's request program Yours of the Asking that kept her in touch with 'home. A memorable occasion was when she heard her mother request a song for her daughter: 'Missing you'.

At school in Broome and in Perth Dann was 'hungry for music', having had her foundations of music instilled in her at family gatherings in Broome, where music was played, and singing under the mango trees was common place and a part of Broome's multicultural lifestyle. Sandy says she loved the microphone and she aspired to "be one of those voices in that talking box"(Interview). Later her dream was to be realised when, as a young adult whilst living and working in Perth and Sydney, she volunteered at Noongar Radio and Radio Redfern.

Sandy commenced working at GME when the station opened in 1991. Working first as a cleaner, by chance, she was given the opportunity to undertake a radio cadetship. While working as a broadcaster she was one of the first at GME to complete an Advanced Diploma in Broadcast Journalism. 'I took it on rather than being a wall flower ... I put aside my fears, I realised I had something to offer', she said. 'As a child I wore glasses, I was fat, I was teased and had to get along .... I was nervous because of my eyesight, I tended to hold myself back. I realised radio is a hearing medium, I didn't have questions in front of me. I could be myself and have a conversation' (Interview).

From 1996 Dann worked as a broadcaster and trainer in the West Kimberley and then in 1998 became the station manager of Puranyangu-Rangka Kerrem in Halls Creek in the East Kimberley. She was the broadcaster for the Djuraballan Native Title Claim and witnessed the High Court decision, while sitting in the desert, out at Mulan Community in the East Kimberley. On her return to GME in 2006 she was nominated for a Deadly Award and, in 2007, she took out the award for Broadcaster of the Year (www.deadlys.com.au).

Through her broadcasts and her passion for change, Sandy has become an inspirational Aboriginal woman leader. She works with and for her people and is motivated and has become a role model for both young and old. Her own role models were of course her mother, many aunties, and men that worked in the male dominated radio broadcasting arena (Interview). Dann acknowledges many people have invested their time in her. 'It is only recently I have become comfortable with who I am and where life is taking me. I have embraced technology and can function with a cane. I utilise my other senses. I have grown as a person and did not give up' (Interview).

Sandy Dann is an asset to the Aboriginal Media Industry in Australia and one could say she has 'beaten the odds'.

Additional sources: Sandy Dann, interviewed by Elaine Rabbitt, Broome, Western Australia,15 October, 2013.

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