Going where other radio stations don’t and having staff who live and breathe their programmes are at the heart of one of Australia’s longest running community radio stations, according to two of the stations hosts — who have 55 years on air experience between them.

2SER 107.3, attached to University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University, is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year with over 100 shows broadcast to date.

“Hopefully, you can find something at 2SER that bakes your biscuit, that’s about you, and makes you feel like you belong to something,” says Paula Kruger, the station’s managing director. “2SER is a place that supports local music and local artists, and it’s a place where we aim to really serve our community and really focus on what they want, not just what we [the station] want.”

2SER provides a diverse range of entertainment, from old-time swing jazz to, disco, blues, funk, and death metal, with a particular focus on Australian music. And, it serves as a platform for marginalised voices, including those within the prison system. One of 2SER’s distinctive programs, Jailbreak, which debuted in 1997, is also reaching a significant milestone by celebrating 25 years on air. Jailbreak holds the record as the longest-running prison radio show in both Australia and worldwide.

Kate Pinnock, host of Jailbreak for 16 years describes the show’s listeners as “vulnerable”.

“They can be isolated by prison, but they can also be socially isolated,” she says. “You know, people who have a loved one in jail don’t often go around saying ‘I’ve got a loved one in jail’.

“There’s lots of shame and stigma involved in that. So, that’s how radio really does work. It’s the most amazing medium for reaching out in an anonymous way, to very vulnerable communities.”

It was the first program that used the World Wide Web to put up content… years before contemporary music programs were forced to do these things.

Among other things, Jailbreak claims to benefit the prison community by seeking to alter behaviours and shield individuals from harmful drug use by raising awareness about blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections in prison. The program works closely with CRC — Community Restorative Centre (a NSW organisation for post-prison support), providing a radio program that connects the outside world to people in jail who have been to jail or are at risk of going.

“The fact that my participants can go into 2SER and be welcomed, they can learn all about radio and broadcasting, and they can do a program themselves. I think that’s the real magic of 2SER,” says Pinnock.

Greg Poppleton, the host of The Phantom Dancer, says 2SER’s alternative perspective provides a niche for different groups.

“2SER has quite a specific audience, and the most interesting of audiences was one that 2SER never did exploit – being the audience between midnight and 6am,” he adds… “and then, it was an audience of shift workers and truck drivers, insomniacs, and people with mental health issues, who would be up all night, and they really had nothing to entertain them.”

Since 1985, The Phantom Dancer has featured a continuous mix of live swing jazz, including music from the 1920s to the 1960s. The music is taken from original radio and TV broadcasts, accompanied by the announcers from that era. And, although radio has undergone significant changes since the ’80s, The Phantom Dancer has remained at the forefront of technological firsts on 2SER.

“It was the very first 2SER show that got itself promoted in the street press weekly,” says Poppleton. “It was also the very first program in May of 1995, recorded digitally and aired digitally.

“It was also the very first program that used the World Wide Web to put up content… That was done years before contemporary music programs were forced to do these things.”


2SER hosts Kate Pinnock and Greg Poppleton. Pics supplied.


Jailbreak is also evolving, with the introduction of in-cell tablets.

“Since COVID, every person in jail has, like an iPad type of thing [in-cell tablet] and Jailbreak has been working for the last three years on trying to build a site to play all the programs [episodes],” says Pinnock.

“They go on to a link that goes to the tablet, so, about 12,000 people listening can actually click on a link, and they can listen to a whole library of Jailbreak programs and that’s the first time in 25 years of broadcasting for Jailbreak that that will be able to happen.”

She says that Jailbreak extends the opportunities to women in prison by dedicating a whole hour to them annually for International Women’s Day.

“What other radio station is willing to do that in Australia? I think that’s pretty amazing! Because often, women in jail, especially on International Women’s Day, feel forgotten or invisible, but 2SER gives them a platform – which I think is a great example of what 2SER represents,” she adds.

As radio itself faces external pressures for remaining a relevant media format, Kruger remains positive about community radio, comparing its surge in popularity to the comeback of vinyl.

“I mean, you look at vinyl, for goodness’ sake,” she says. “I would never have picked that vinyls were going to make a huge comeback. So that’s what gives me hope.

“There is an emphasis on the community, whether it’s an internal community of internal volunteers or the external community of our audiences, and we are increasingly looking towards a community of stakeholders of people who can help keep 2SER alive.”

To celebrate 2SER’s birthday anniversary — ‘$45 for 45 years’, 2SER’s end-of-financial-year campaign is encouraging listeners to make a $45 (tax deductible) donation.

Main image of Paula Kruger by Eva Greifeneder.