Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ

Today, we are honoured to share the extraordinary journey of Mr. George Salloum, businessman and 3ZZZ community radio station President. With over four decades of dedicated service, his impact with 3ZZZ station is genuinely remarkable.

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. I’m your host, Maram Ismail. In this podcast, we dive deep into the stories of individuals who have left an indelible mark on their communities. Today, we are honoured to share the extraordinary journey of Mr. Georges Salloum, businessman and 3ZZZ community radio station President. With over four decades of dedicated service, his impact with 3ZZZ station is genuinely remarkable.

George Salloum: To be a volunteer, you must be a special person. You must be that sort of person who are willing to give and not expect anything in return. I believe in community work, I believe in giving, and I believe in being a part of the big Australian fabric.

Maram Ismail: Mr. Georges Salloum is a prominent figure within the 3ZZZ station. Speaking to him, I could feel his strong connection with the Syrian community in Australia and his homeland, Syria. We met here at 3ZZZ community radio station settled in the heart of Melbourne. 3ZZZ is not just a radio station, it’s a living tapestry of communities, a place where cultures intersect, and stories intertwine.

Speaker1: You’re listening to 3ZZZ.

Maram Ismail: Imagine stepping into a bustling hub where languages, traditions and experiences converge to create a unique symphony of sounds and the impact immeasurable. 3ZZZ has been a lighthouse for newly arrived migrants, a platform for community events, a source of news and information that transcends borders, and a melting pot where connections are forged, and understanding is nurtured. Going back to Mr. Salloum and his connection with the station in our meeting, he shared his remarkable journey of dedication to community work over many decades as a volunteer. In 1989, he was a founding member of radio 3ZZZ 92.3 FM, and in 1996 he was elected to 3ZZZas a board member. Since then, his position has progressed to Secretary of the Association. In 2008, he was elected president of the association, a position he still holds today.

George Salloum: The history of the 3ZZZ started very small. There was a driving force behind it by the name of George Zangalis, and he was well connected to different politicians. When it started, they were broadcasting from Trades Hall Council in a small room in a basement and trades hall council, and then the committee at that time decided to move to a place which we bought in George Street in Fitzroy. And that was on the second story. It’s not very ideal. However, 3ZZZ was there for a long time in George Street, and I think at that time I was a secretary of 3ZZZ with my colleagues. We decided that we wanted to spread our wings and go somewhere. So we took a decision at the council that we need to buy a premises, and we ended up buying this place. It was a big shell. And then we say, okay, we want to renovate this place. We want to remove all our equipment, come to, uh, Albert Street. It took us very the hard work and time to realise the dream. And then the milestone is when we moved here. And I do remember when we moved here, the first program was broadcasted from here with a Syrian program on Wednesday at 12:00.

Speaker1: The following program is in Syrian.

George Salloum: And that was something to be remembered. And when we had our official opening here, we had so many politicians from both sides of the political spectrum. Actually, we had the Liberal, the Labor, the Greens, the Democrats, we had everybody. And not even a single person doubted the success of this organisation, this 3ZZZ, and not even a single person who did not see the benefit of that sort of work and their valued commitment and work to their communities. So, yeah, that is something to remember. What’s next for After Here? We don’t know as yet, but we do have plan. We do have strategies. We really wanted to move on. If you don’t have a plan and if you don’t have a strategy for the future, you probably succeed for a short distance. But the long goals, that’s what really counts. We’re talking about developing the site, going up and having satellites, and we’re talking about accommodating more, uh, more groups. We’ve got studios, we’ve got five, six studios here. They’re pretty good. The challenge is, as you say, how are we going to adapt to the new technology? How are we going to marry the old technology and the new technology? It’s not only us, it’s some other organization within the sector. They’re working on it. Hopefully something will happen. It is challenging. We know that the sponsorship is, uh, not like before.

It’s drying up. The government funding is still okay state there’s still some state grants and there’s still some federal fundings. But I can see the day when there won’t be any more fundings for these sort of stations. The day will come when the government say, hang on, we cannot afford to pay you anymore. In our situation at 3ZZZ here, we okay when I say we okay, we have financial members, we have radiation, we have our own, uh, internal advertising system and so on. Plus what we’re getting from the government, we are in comfortable position despite saying that things can change. So that’s why we’re looking for future strategies. How are we going to have passive income without relying on anybody for the second generation, me and the council working on it? When we interview some of those newcomers, we always emphasize that you are coming to a country, you are coming very good country, very hospitable country and very generous country. You’re enjoying a lot of benefits. But these benefits being paid for, for so many generations, Australia has fought, rightly or wrongly, in different worlds. They sacrificed; they built the country the way it is now. So, it did not happen out of nowhere. We must value and we must respect. And most of them, you know, they self respect and they accept it.

Maram Ismail: Here, Mr. George shares the station’s beginnings, emphasizing its crucial role in giving voice to various communities. Their challenges in the early days were immense, especially with the limited technology. Still, their commitment paved the way for the station’s growth and influence.

George Salloum: I’m in the history of the triple Z is very, very rich. I mean, when we decided to join and preparing programs, we never had the luxuries of today’s. We had to listen to news, and we had to write our news down and then edit them and try a program used to take about maybe just about two days to prepare these days with a new technology. I mean, it doesn’t take that long, and you do have everything. It’s just like, uh, you know, copy and paste and off you go. Yes. In the past, it was very challenging. And as we progressed, it became a lot easier.

Maram Ismail: Mr. Salloum highlighted the importance of representing the culture and history of the Syrian and Arabic speaking communities in Australia. He stressed the significance of keeping ties with one’s heritage while also assimilating into the Australian fabric. Thanks to the station’s efforts. He recalled heart-warming moments such as reuniting relatives who had been separated for decades.

George Salloum: 3ZZZ, has showed us different ways in achieving what we want to achieve. And I do remember when people were listening heavily to their own programs. We were getting some calls and some requests from interstate and even overseas. And at one time we had a call from, I think it was Brazil for someone looking for his relatives here in Australia for who hasn’t seen for 50 years or something. Uh, by the end of the day, we did locate the relatives and we put them together. And then they came here to Australia. And it was very emotional reunion. And we had them here at the, at the station. And that was something, you know, you can always remember for a long time.

Maram Ismail: Mr. Salloum says 3ZZZ station fostered a sense of belonging and connection among its volunteers and listeners.

George Salloum: A sense of belonging is very strong, especially with the middle age and the elderly people, people who really been with 3ZZZ, most of them from day one. And I said we found that most of those age brackets are more dedicated. We believe or I personally believe 3ZZZ is like an extended family. If something happens to someone we know or you know, we always would like to share the sorrows or the joy or the enjoyment of things which may happen.

Maram Ismail: Navigating the Changing Media landscape 3ZZZ adapted to new technology, facilitating faster program preparation and broadcasting. Mr. Salloum shared his hope for the station’s future despite the challenges posed by social media and evolving communication methods.

George Salloum: Of course, being in a leadership, I mean of 3ZZZ, we are always focusing on future strategies, planning, advocacy for young people. That’s our biggest challenge for the time being a woman, how are we going to get them on board? And most importantly, how to keep them on board? We do try to get them and they we succeed, but it’s very hard to keep him. Plus, the social media and technology is changing the whole perimeter of the radius these days. I don’t know, where do we go from here? The radio will be here. I mean, I remember old days when someone dies in a community. The first thing they used to grab the phone, let’s put it on the radio, because that’s the only means we have now they don’t need to. They just go on one phone and social media and then it’s all over the place. How it’s going to end up, how the technology is going to change the face and the shape of the whole radius that’s remain to be seen. But it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen because it’s part of the progress. And how are we going to react and how data station and how the sector is going to react. We don’t know yet.

Maram Ismail: Speaking about what it takes to be the right volunteer in the right place, Mr. Salloum emphasized that being a volunteer requires a unique spirit of giving without expecting anything in return. His dedication to community work and the desire to preserve cultural heritage have guided him through his decades long journey with 3ZZZ. The station’s impact is evidenced by the numerous individuals who have started their careers in 3ZZZ and have since succeeded in various fields.

George Salloum: To be a volunteer, you must be a special person. You must be that sort of person who are willing to give and not expect anything in return. I believe in community work, I believe in giving, and I believe in being a part of the Australian big Australian fabric and the Syrian and the Arabic speaking community. I mean, it’s very important we had volunteers here who’ve been working here with 3ZZZ, and they ended up politicians. One of them, he was the speaker of the parliament locally, couple became MPs, a few councillors or lord mayors, some other people, you know, they made it to mainstream media. I do not regret it, but I think 3ZZZ was for so many people as a stepping stone to move somewhere else, to spread their wings and to see life in a different way. But they wanted to start somewhere and 3ZZZ gave him the opportunity. It’s volunteer. We’ve got everything covered here. We’ve got state of the art studios. You can see that. We’ve got the training and we’ve got the communities. So many communities you can talk to. We have the politicians you can talk to, and you’ve got the different organisations. They listen to us because 3ZZZ is 3ZZZ. This is a big organisation.

Maram Ismail: Through his own experiences, Mr. George has demonstrated that honesty, hard work, and a positive attitude are crucial to success. He encouraged others to be dedicated, committed, and valued. A community spirit.

George Salloum: I mean, if you’ve seen this building here, it didn’t happen by itself. It did happen, you know, by the hard work of so many volunteers and so many people who put in and out, uh, you know, time and time, day, and day to get it to this stage. Every member of the 3ZZZ who believes in 3ZZZ, he is a good ambassador for 3ZZZ. Of course, we all fight in different roles. I believe. You know, I’ve got the responsibility of being in the front bench and being there. It is very important to carry the flag in the right way and to send the message to different politicians that this organisation doing a great job, and you’re underestimating the jobs and underestimating the values of our work. They accept it to a certain extent, but what really matters to us is when it comes to funding, that’s really what counts.

Maram Ismail: His vision for the future includes creating a community centre for the Syrian community and contributing to his village of origin. He believes that embracing cultural heritage and promoting understanding can help bridge gaps in the Middle East and beyond.

George Salloum: I would like to and hopefully that will happen. I would like to build something for a community centre for the Syrian community. It is in the planning stage. It was tried so many times before and because of different political pressures from here and there, like all Arabic speaking communities, you know it fell apart. Now with things are settling down and there’s so many people, that’s one of the my ambitions. And the other ambition is, uh, hopefully in the future. You know, I would like to, uh. Do something for the community I left behind. And mainly where I come from, the village I come from, I wanted to contribute something to that community. Even so, now if I go there, probably most of them, they won’t recognize me anymore. A generation gone and a generation born and so on, you know? So last time I was here, 2010, I walked in the village. Only a few people knew who I am. But however. But that’s life.

Maram Ismail: Mr. George Salloum’s story underscores the importance of community, the value of preserving cultural heritage, and the profound impact individuals can have when working together towards a common goal.

George Salloum: I really would like to see more of our cultural heritage because we all look by the end of the day, we’re all very similar in the Middle East, maybe different countries, different names, and things like that, but very, very close in so many ways. So many ways. Yeah. And yes, we do have a message to bring to the Australian society and let’s put it in a very positive way, because our heritage and our culture is so profound that nobody can take from us. I hope in the future we may go back to that sort of thinking in the Middle East instead of extremism and some don’t want to go too much into that, you know, but it is very important, you know, to get the message correct. Message to our new country here in Australia.

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.