IN the late 1990s Anne Hamilton bought a new car. Little did she know some issues with her radio would lead to a life-changing event that would not only improve her wellbeing dramatically, but go on to make a difference for hundreds of other people as well.

“I was working in a multinational organisation, I knew I was gay but didn’t have gay friends,” Hamilton recalls.

“I bought a new car and the radio wasn’t tuned and I was looking for something to listen to and I stumbled on JOY.

“I became a regular listener and signed up as a member.”

JOY 94.9 is Australia’s first gay and lesbian radio which launched in 1993 on a part-time license. The small studio was based above a hardware store in the beach side suburb of South Melbourne and it was there that Sydney-born Hamilton began her 14-year stint as a volunteer in 2002.

The tiny community radio station opened up a whole new world for her, and she was quick to become a passionate advocate for it.

“One of the highlights for me was JOY getting a full time licence,” she explains.

“Every time they called for support I would write letters to MPs. I went to a meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall when it was announced JOY got a full time licence, it was a huge milestone.”

Her first role as a volunteer was working at the front desk, answering phone calls and greeting people at the studio. The front desk job is where many new volunteers begin their life at JOY — including former General Manager Conrad Browne — who then go on to other positions at the station.

“I started in the first week of February in 2002, on the front desk doing a three hour shift every Friday at Coventry St. It was the first year JOY went full-time,” she explains.

“I started at 9 in the morning, there was no one to show me the ropes of what to do over the ensuing weeks.

“I started making notes about what to do, even how to use the phone and that document evolved to be a training checklist so when we had new volunteers we would give them the checklist. That process still exists today.”

Hamilton, 63, admits her brain is wired to find gaps in processes, to troubleshoot and to create documentation on how to do things.

From creating the original front desk training checklist, she was asked to join a working group to create a procedures manual and eventually draft a station policy.

Now Hamilton dedicates 30 hours a week — or three days — of her time as the operations support which she thinks “probably doesn’t mean much to most people”.

“I do most of the stuff people aren’t interested in and just think it happens,” she says.

“I help with the background process of the community radio station, preparation design, process mapping, process reengineering, administration of volunteer and member records, database and ongoing trouble-shooting. I was involved in the development of the processes which had to be a tailored implementation for our station.

“I love to get in there and sort these things out.”

Hamilton’s dedication to JOY was so influential she was made a life member of the station in 2007, only five years after signing up as a volunteer.

She admits her motivation to volunteer at JOY comes from wanting to give something back to the organisation that helped her with coming out.

“I was one of the community living in isolation. I had no inkling there was a gay and lesbian radio station,” she explains.

“That means anyone could listen. I could listen at home. I could comfortably be myself at home.

“It gave me hope and helped me grow my own inner strength to continue my journey and step out into the world more and participate.

“I came out to my brother and sister and a niece I’m close to. It was freeing that I didn’t have to have a secret.”

Even after 14 years of years of giving so much of her time to JOY 94.9, Hamilton has no plans to leave.

“JOY will have a purpose for a long time,” she says.

“Our role is to educate not just our own community, but the wider community in understanding that we haven’t got two heads and we’re just like everybody else.

“More people will be born and they will be same-sex attracted and they’ll need JOY. That’s why we have to keep going.”

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