Wangaratta can lay claim to Australia’s first country broadcasting station, going to air five months before Toowoomba’s 4GR. Stationer and Wangaratta Sports Depot owner Leslie John Leo Hellier commenced radio 3WR in February 1925 in a shed in his backyard in Rowan Street on the corner of Baker Street. Graham Jones believed that this was the corner where the former Church of Christ stands. Hellier had gained a license in December 1924 but spent months perfecting his equipment and technique. In May 1925 the station, dubbed “Progressive 3WR” began reporting race results and scores from the Ovens and Murray, and Ovens and King Football Associations.
The author’s great aunt Edna Moore with her niece Valda Pacholli wearing a crystal set at the Moore family home in Moore Street, Wangaratta, circa 1930
Hellier hoped to use radio to advertise his Murphy Street business and to sell the wireless sets and kits he stocked in the store, but uptake of radio wasn’t as popular as he hoped and the station closed in December 1925. Amateur radio, however, remained popular in the district and a few years later the Wangaratta Radio Club was formed. The club represented many amateur radio stations around the district, particularly when moves were made in late 1929 to curtail the hours that they operated.
Benalla Standard, 23rd January 1925, page 2
In November 1930 it was announced that radio 3WR would be resurrected under the control of the Wangaratta Broadcasting Company of which Hellier was the managing director. Located in Trotman’s Buildings in Murphy Street the station aimed to reach the 150,000 strong population of the north east, the Goulburn Valley and the Riverina within 100 miles of Wangaratta. This reincarnation of 3WR also struggled and in early 1935 approval was given for the station to be moved to Shepparton under the control of a new company named Goulburn Valley and North-Eastern Broadcasters Ltd., where in 1937 the call sign was changed to 3SR.
Boy listening to a crystal radio set, Yarraville, circa 1925, courtesy of Museum Victoria
This was not the end of radio in Wangaratta, however. In December 1953 Wangaratta Borough Council announced that the town was booming and it’s 1000th building application was for a new studio in Templeton Street for the Wangaratta Broadcasting Company. This was the genesis of 3NE which was officially opened in March 1954, but that’s another story.
See below for a newspaper report of the first night of operation of 3WR.
Shepparton Advertiser, Friday 13th March 1925, page 3
WANGARATTA BROADCASTING STATION OPENED
On Wednesday evening, February 25, Mr. L. J. Hellier’s wireless broadcasting station (3WR) commenced its career of giving out to the world concerts by Wangaratta musicians and happenings connected with the town and district. It will also be the medium through which owners of small listening-in sets will receive the wireless news from far-away sources.
Mr. Hellier opened proceedings by announcing that the initial concert test was being made, and listeners in were asked to make reports so that, if necessary, adjustments could be made. A program of music would be transmitted each evening, as well as market reports, sporting results,and news reports; and vocal concerts as often as possible. Only half of the transmitting power of 100 watts is yet installed, and when the full power is ready a special concert will be broadcasted.
‘The following was the program submitted:—Songs, “My Dear Soul,””The Blind Flowerman,” Miss B. Vallender: “The Floral Dance,” The Pixie Piper Man,” Mr. G. Yeoman;”Happy Song,” “Open Thy Blue Eyes,” Miss E. Fletcher; “A Heart That’s Free,” Mammy’s Little Fellow,”Miss L. Callander. Gramaphone items with Apollo phone, kindly lent by Bond’s Furnishing Arcade.The accompaniements were played by Miss Fletcher. The program was concluded by all present singing the National Anthem, and each voice was easily discernible on the receiving sets. Miss L Callander acted as announcer for the concert items.
Shortly after the first item had commenced Mr. Reynolds rang up from Beechworth and stated that he had received the call sign and the opening remarks on the loud speaker, and was then listening to Miss Vallender’s song. He said the transmission was clear and strong, and quite as good as 3LO. Later in the evening the postmaster at St. James telephoned to say he had received the program on the loud speaker, and it was clear and strong. A Bright resident has also notified Mr. Hellier that the program was clearly received there, and Mr. V. Sheppard, of Eldorado,reported a good reception on a crystal set and on a valve set. Several Wangaratta listeners-in also reported favorably on the transmission.
The transmitting apparatus is installed in a workshop at the rear ofMr. Hellier’s residence in Rowan Street. It was attended to by Mr. R.Shortill, who installed it. It is connected with microphones fitted in the ceiling of Mr. Hellier’s drawing room, and it is here the announcements are made and the items given.
As regards the technical side of the radio transmitter, there are really three units—the oscillator, modulator,and rectifier units. The 230 voltsA.C; (the town supply) can be stepped up in 200 volt steps from 400 volts to 2,000 volts. At present the set is on slightly less than half power, that is about 40 watts. The maximum is 100 watts. After being stepped up through the transformer to 600 volts the power is put through two kenotrons and a smoother. The kenotrons convert the alternating current to direct current, and the smoother eliminates any ripples that may occur during the converting operations. Then comes the oscillator unit, which serves the purpose of energising the antenna. That is, it might be termed the transmitter proper.The next unit is the modulator, which turns sound vibrations through themicrophone. This power is amplified and applied to the oscillating circuit which has the antenna energised, and so speech or music, as the case might be, is transmitted.
 Bernard Harte, When Radio Was the Cat’s Whiskers, Rosenberg Publishing, Dural, NSW, 2002, pp.135-136; 1925 ‘Wireless’, Shepparton Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1953), 28 May, p. 3. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article173261517; 1926 ‘Advertising’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 22 September, p. 18. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202538966; 1930 ‘Broadcasting Station at Wangaratta.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 3 December, p. 12., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article203275187; 1930 ‘THE STANDARD’, Alexandra and Yea Standard and Yarck, Gobur, Thornton and Acheron Express (Vic. : 1908 – 1949), 28 November, p. 2. , viewed 09 Sep 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64700738; 1954 ‘New Radio Station 3NE Officially Opened at Wangaratta’, Benalla Ensign (Vic. : 1938 – 1954), 1 April, p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65497930