Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ

Today we are highlighting some areas in the life of Madkhul Sani, a well-known volunteer broadcaster for Melbourne’s Malaysian program on 3ZZZ Community Radio.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ highlights the impact that 3ZZZ broadcasters have made to their communities, increasing diversity in community media, benefits of multiculturalism, sacrifices made by new migrants in Australia, and benefits of volunteering in community radio.


Maram Ismail: Welcome to radio for the community Spoken Histories from 3ZZZ, where we shine a spotlight on the people behind the voices of community radio. I’m your host, Maram Ismail. Today we are highlighting some areas in the life of Madkhul Sani, a well-known volunteer broadcaster for Melbourne’s Malay program on 3ZZZ Community Radio.

Madkhul Sani: One of the things which 3ZZZ has done, we have a couple of so-called volunteer who is now a top presenter in one of the TV stations in Malaysia. So when we meet, he said, ah, this is my mentor, brother Madkhul. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now, you know? So basically, unknowingly, we are in fact a breeding ground for future top broadcasters.

Maram Ismail: From a technical background in Singapore to his current role as a beloved volunteer broadcaster, his journey is a story of generosity, passion and productivity. Madkhul was born into a lively Singaporean household surrounded by a big family. He spent his childhood in the hustle and bustle of his father’s radio and TV shop. Unknown to him, this was just the beginning of a life dedicated to fostering community spirit and technology on a deeper level.

Madkhul Sani: I’m born in Singapore in 1944. I’m an old man and came from a family of 14. I got seven boys. Seven girls. My father is a businessman and he comes from Java, Indonesia, and my mother is Chinese in Singapore. Chinese family doesn’t like women, doesn’t like female. So at the age of one day old, the Chinese family gave to my grandfather and said, take this child, I don’t want it. And would you believe I was born when my mom was only 16 years old? So that’s how I got a lot of siblings. I grew up in Singapore. My father got a radio and TV show, and I grew up in that technical environment, and I was sent to a technical school, and I finished college like a polytechnic, where I learned how to fix TV and radio.

Maram Ismail: His journey took a turn when opportunity called from afar. Sydney in the 1970s wasn’t merely a city, but a catalyst that propelled Mattole into a future where technology met ambition. Balancing work and education, he mastered his craft, paving the way for a lifetime of service.

Madkhul Sani: I helped my dad. After some time, I felt that that is not enough for me. So there is an opportunity to attend a course on computer, not tertiary education, just a six months course. A company called Control Data Institute. And before you can get to this so-called technical institute, they have to test your aptitude. And to do that, I have to come Australia. I can’t do it. So I got a phone call and said, look, I’m coming to Singapore. Would you come to a hotel and sit down and do this aptitude? And I did that aptitude test and he said, yep, you can attend the course in Sydney. When would you like to join? I said, uh, any time. So I break away from my father’s business. I came to Sydney to study computer. I think that must be about 1970. And at that time, computer is not like we have. Like even your laptop or your mobile phone is a computer itself. So I took the course at that time. My father can’t afford to pay me the fee. So what I did, I worked to fix TV in the morning, I attend the class in the afternoon and then they change where the class in the morning, and I then repair the TV in the afternoon. And I was so good at fixing TV because they make me a kind of like supervisor where other people cannot fix themselves. And Madkhul, can you do this? And I would stretch from Sydney up to manly. You know, you’re familiar with Sydney up in the north. And he said, as long as you can fix, uh, six, seven sides, you’re done for your job so they don’t go by.

Madkhul Sani: You must work for six, seven hours. So usually I finish by two, three hours and I got paid for six hours job. And after that, uh, I have enough. I said, look, I have qualified as a computer technician. I join a company, and the company involved in Sydney was fixing computer for the airline at that time, like Qantas. So I was busy in Sydney. I would be going to Newcastle and around that area after a year and a half. Then there is an opportunity opening in Singapore. So I told my boss, like, uh, could you send me to Singapore because I like to go back to Singapore and after six months I told him he kept quiet. I said, look, I’m still interested. Oh, are you? He said said, okay, get ready within 30 days I’ll send you back. So I went back to Singapore with my wife, my first wife, and I was happy at that time in Singapore, being being a Malay Muslim, Singapore is basically a lot of Chinese. The Chinese are the ones with the high tech. So when I work in that environment, uh, the first customer is Bank of America. Very big company. And the computer have to fix this. Usually the size of this room and the people, the so-called Chinese said, oh, are you Malay? I said, yeah, what’s wrong? Is it graduate too from Australia? Said, yeah, there’s nothing wrong being a Malay too, you know. So I enjoyed that work. And in Singapore I was involved looking after the other airlines like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific. So I traveled to like India, to Guam, to Jakarta, all over the place.

Maram Ismail: Back in Singapore, mudhole navigated an evolving society. As technology grew, so did he, becoming a revered figure in a field. Few from his background entered. Yet some restrictions of his home country, coupled with a longing for the Australian shores, set the stage for his return after some time.

Madkhul Sani: I think where I came to a stage where I traveled so much I got enough. So second marriage come in. And I said, uh, we want to migrate to Australia. My mother in law said, oh, you took my daughter and now you want to leave me in Singapore? I said, all right. Cancel the whole idea. I said, I’m not going to Australia. After 2 or 3 months, I said, I’m going to study in Australia. Mother in law said, you’re going to study. Yeah, okay. So brought my missus come to Australia. So that’s why I came to Australia in 1980. At that time, Singapore is very restrictive. The government said you want children, you can only have two. And then I said, my, my parents come with 14 children. You can’t restrict me in two only. So what they did at that time, the government said you want to have the third child. The third child is being deprived. They cannot go to the school you want and it will be expensive for the maternity and everything. So they want this discouraged population growth.

Maram Ismail: Upon his return to Australia, Madkhul’s story weaved through the streets of Melbourne, finding comfort and community within the walls of the local mosque. It was here that the seeds of his future with 3ZZZ were sown.

Madkhul Sani: I got a phone call from the Indonesian group and they said, look, we were given two hours and I don’t think we can do two hours of session. And would you like to take over one hour of the of the program? What do you have to do? Is it just send trial tape. You know, you send a tape. So at that time we were using cassette. So we do at my house we have 3 or 4 guys that do a dummy thing, send back and said, you got it. And that’s in 1987 when we come, uh, family come to Australia. They said, we don’t know anybody. As you know, you can’t get halal food. The only one is in Sydney Road in Brunswick. So where do we go? The only place where you can meet your so-called people. We go to a mosque. So when you go to the mosque, we look. Ah, he looks Malaysian. Talk to them, he said. Ah, you shake hands and from there onwards, especially during it, he said, come over to my house. So that’s where we started. That’s where it grow. Because consider at my age, I’m one of the senior in in Melbourne.

Maram Ismail: Broadcasting was not a new realm for Matt Hall, but a return to familiar grounds with a history of technical work in broadcasting behind him. The transition to a presenter for 3ZZZ seemed like destiny, calling him back to the microphone.

Madkhul Sani: I used to work with BBC in Johor, which is where in Singapore? Johor is the southern part of Malaysia and I was a broadcasting technician. We relay programmes from London to Relay to Southeastern. So that’s why my broadcasting. Then when I left BBC in Johor, then I worked in Singapore that is called British Forces Broadcasting Station. Bfbs provides like that for the Australian, New Zealand and the Nepalese soldier. So they give them a programme. So I was actually a broadcasting actual broadcasting station, what we’re doing down here. So my insight is that I like broadcasting as much.

Maram Ismail: All settled into his role at 3ZZZ, the challenge of creating content with local flavor became an adventure.

Madkhul Sani: I think is very difficult because, uh, in the beginning, you’re starting a radio station. What does it do? You know? So basically at that time, it’s very strict. I think the 3ZZZ required, like 10%, must have local content, you know, trying to get, uh, interviews, trying to get people involved. So basically I would be going around with a portable cassette. Whenever there is a function, I will come around and said, oh, this is a guy that triple that guy. And when you try to interview them said, no, I can’t. I’m shy. You know, I think I enjoy, especially during uh, when you eat. I said, look, we’re going to pass the message to the community. And I would go around and I would have one, two, three, four, five already. I got ten people the whole Sunday evening. That would be all the interviews in between the each song. You know, it’s all FM at that time, no digital. Whereas nowadays we can have our audience up in Malaysia, you know, tune online, which is fantastic.

Maram Ismail: With each broadcast. Machel’s vision for the 3ZZZ Malay program became clearer to attract the younger generation and build an avenue for them to express and engage in media beyond the reach of social platforms.

Madkhul Sani: Our thing is to allow the younger generation look, there is a medium, make use of it and my difficulty now is to get the youth involved because I think like a lot when we have a convenience meeting, all the conveners are about like 50, 60, 70 years old, none of the younger generation. So hopefully we can create a foothold. And to say, look, it’s media is even though now with social media, Facebook is different from from this one.

Maram Ismail: Despite the absence of financial compensation, Machel’s dedication to 3ZZZ remained strong. Come rain, hail or shine, he was there, contributing to the studio’s evolution from its humble beginnings to its current stature.

Madkhul Sani: I don’t know whether you let the history at that time we were. When our studio is in the Trades Hall, which is down in the basement, just a small cubicle, and at that time they were looking for people to help, and I would be there at 6:00 in the morning just to help people run the show. So I think it only giving a break because, uh, for us, the Malaysian community is very small here. Indonesian community is very big. I think the Arab community is also very big here. And like they said in Malay, they said the Malay, wherever you are, you can’t die or you won’t die. It’s everywhere. I think it’s it’s in me. Very hard to answer. It’s just I love it.

Maram Ismail: Through the digital expansion of 3ZZZ, machel and his team have extended their family far beyond Melbourne, offering a sense of home and community to listeners worldwide.

Madkhul Sani: Our thing is especially like 3ZZZ is now on digital and to allow people like back home to say that we are here, we have a mob, which are, I won’t say successful, we get homesick, but we survive here. We are extended family of those at home. So when when they come around and said, oh, if you come to Melbourne, it said look out for his in 3ZZZ, you know. And we tried to grab them and say, let’s go interview, you know, and you are from this village, this village. So whenever we get somebody who is at one stage, we got, uh, speaker of Parliament from Malaysia. So I interviewed them and I said, oh, I hope you are not nervous. They said, I’m the Speaker of Parliament. I say, oh, God, is the speaker of Parliament. How can he be nervous? You know, so amazing. So I like it because this is an opportunity to meet all sorts of people, high profile doctors and everything.

Maram Ismail: As a voice on the airwaves, Motgol has championed various causes, from integration to volunteering in. Encouraging the community to embrace the Australian ethos while maintaining their cultural identity.

Madkhul Sani: You are in Melbourne. Be like Australian and one of the difficulties we try to get is those people back home. They are not volunteer minded and as you know in Australia everything is volunteer till your age about 18 or 19. So be like them. So we are in Australia. Change yourself. I think one of the ways to do that is especially the younger generation. As you know, the Malay family son would not marry another Malay. We got Malay, married a Turkish Malay, married an Afghan Malay. So that become totally mixed also. And as you know, I don’t know whether, you know, sometime some family said you marry my daughter. My daughter had to be like me rather than you. They have to change.

Maram Ismail: Keeping up to date on current events while steering clear of politics, Butthole’s approach to content is careful and thoughtful, ensuring that the information shared is reliable and relevant.

Madkhul Sani: We try not to touch politics. Yeah, but I think the social media is very, very important media for us to use that. But we also try not be careful of fake news, fake information, and we always try to get, okay, let’s get where the source is. That allows us to get through information to be on the air. Even sometimes what you get on Google is not correct yet.

Maram Ismail: The road has not been without its bumps. Challenges in community radio are expected from last minute program changes to the eternal quest of engaging the youth.

Madkhul Sani: One of the problems with us is, although nowadays we can upload your file without coming to present because we go on the air from 10 to 11 very odd hours, we have a case where we said, uh, Brother Madkhul, I just got flu. He said, I got hot to be come to the studio in two hours. Can you help me? Who’s going to do that? And because we have a team of people and said, just spread the news, we got about six broadcast. They said, may, they may they said. So that allows us and also being able to train people who said, I would like to be a broadcaster, but I don’t think I like to speak, but you find that somebody who who are not good suddenly after training, he’s the best presenter. So having a group of people does help. I think one of the area which although it got nothing broadcasting, is trying to get membership and to get people said, look, it doesn’t cost you that much, be a member. And we have one of the way to get others involved with get the family being the member. And by doing that, they said that we spread our wings and said, look, our Malay radio, which is although as you know, we are called Malaysian language. But in Singapore we said Melayu, which is Malay. So because we call it Malaysian Broadcasting Group, even we have people from Singapore, from Brunei, we call them, we speak Malay. So that’s one of the challenges to get other people from other country besides Malaysia to get involved.

Maram Ismail: Muchalls narrative is not just about surmounting the trials of broadcasting, but also about the strength of unity and diversity, bringing together community members from various backgrounds to share their stories.

Madkhul Sani: We have a group of people who have not got the opportunity to express themselves, so by inventing them one day we have about ten of them. The younger one is what we call, uh, Nasheed Group, and all of them in the, in the studio. And he said that allowed them to say, I thought they can only do it in like, big station, like ABC. He said, hey, come here, come at 10:00, finish until 11. And after that take them out for, for a bit of food at Alicia. No. So I think that get them to come here and have a hands on, uh, experience and look physically and that I think, inspire them in the future. I think media has a unique platform compared to certain group there. And this like we have, uh, the Malay group, we have one in the north and one in the west, one in the south. Three tables had allowed them. So we don’t care about your differences. We are the media. You come on the air and speak whatever you want and they love it so much. Have become I’m okay with that group, okay with that. All the different group compared to like say I’m on the West. I’m not going to mix somebody in the North. We are tribal. That doesn’t have that problem. Amazing. The good thing about treatable Z and us is we do not stop any group from said you can’t go on the air. It’s open as long as you’re willing. So we have even like, uh, let’s say a representative one of broadcaster live in Barrick. A good one hour drive sometime. We said, okay, you are from northern suburb. You can’t do that. We will go on site, bring our recorder, record it. So basically, we do not restrict ourselves for them to come to our go and see them. That makes them say, wow, you know, the.

Maram Ismail: Station’s efforts to promote local talent have not gone unnoticed, providing a platform for artists and musicians to shine and enrich the community’s diverse landscape.

Madkhul Sani: Because we are on the air from 10 to 11, that is not many. Function. Most of the function is about like seven. 8:00 I like to see we want to make use of the OB facilities of 3ZZZ. There is an event, we go on site live performance, not live as pre-recorded live on as per on the air. We have a group from Singapore which is uh, we have to book them one year in advance to come to Australia. And because they are a very popular cultural performance, we use it as a, as you said, media, advertising, media to to inform them, look, this party group is coming here and that is good. You know, uh, because they make them listen to our program mainly. I said okay next week so and so will be here in the studio. Then they will tune to our station.

Maram Ismail: And it’s not just about the voices on the air. 3ZZZ fosters a deep sense of belonging among its volunteers and listeners, becoming a home away from home, a familiar voice in a bustling city.

Madkhul Sani: What I’ve done is, uh, I tried to make use of our good treatment that stickers stick in their restaurant. And it is amazing when we said, oh, when I go on on having my lunch or dinner, said, hey, this is brother Marco here from table said, look. And I think about them, make them a sense of belonging that 3ZZZ is in fact a community radio and it belongs to them.

Maram Ismail: As we approach the end of our time with machel, he reflects on his achievements and the boundless opportunities life in Melbourne has offered him.

Madkhul Sani: I think the greatest thing living in, in, in Melbourne, Australia is in fact an opportunity is limitless. I’m fortunate at this stage. I’m still healthy and I’m still working with to believe I’m doing computer work. Uh, most of my clients are doctors and health clinics. I have my own business. I used to hire office. I hire a shop. Nowadays, uh, I scale down. It’s only me and my wife. So operate from home business. Because I think about 80% of businesses in Australia are in fact, home business. And keep me busy. Keep my wife busy. And that’s always people calling us or calling me to do some work. And that is the greatest thing I love. I mean, I’ve felt that being in Australia, I probably wouldn’t be doing that if I am in back, back home in Singapore because basically you’re too old. Don’t do this work.

Maram Ismail: Machel’s desire to serve the community stems from his wish to help others, and his unspoken prayers are answered by those he hates.

Madkhul Sani: It’s, uh, the blessing which Allah gave me that that I’m healthy. And sometimes when you get doctor said, look, I keep sometimes forgetting things. Oh, that is old age now you fight against that. I think the main thing is because I like to help the community. Prayer of people who receive your help is unknown. And this is where as long as I’m healthy, I’m able to help them in, in whatever way help them. And this is what I like. My listeners do it. Volunteer. Help the community. There’s no stopping.

Maram Ismail: Balancing extensive volunteer work with a productive life. Mahul carries out each task with joy and purpose.

Madkhul Sani: It’s very hard. In fact, uh, some of my clients said, would you not retire before I retire? And would you believe already a quarter of them retired, even I’m still able to do it. And some of them rang from their home. So what are you doing? I’m retired. So the doctors. Look. Can I refer so and so for you to do work? Yes. You know, as long as I can still help them. My attitude is sometime my children against me. When somebody ring, they need help. Help them within your capability or means. Unless you can do it, by all means help to your utmost.

Maram Ismail: As we concluded our conversation, Matthew leaves us with a reminder of the value of time, the importance of sharing knowledge, and the simple joy of sharing a good recipe.

Madkhul Sani: Time is important. Share it with people. Knowledge is also important, but don’t keep knowledge to yourself. Share with people knowledge. If you keep yourself, you bring it to the grave is pointless. Just share it costs nothing. For example, like you said, if I’m a good cook, I’m a good chef. Share it with people. Why keep the recipe to yourself?

Maram Ismail: Thank you for listening to this episode of radio for the community Spoken histories from 3ZZZ.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ is proudly supported by the Community Broadcasting Foundation.