Australia - International - AWA
Comments on the history of AWA.

From the early days of operation, AWA established a policy to manufacture in Australia all the wireless equipment required. That policy was maintained and Australia supplied its own needs — a consideration which was of very definite value in the times of national crisis.

Perth Times
11 June 1922



In 1911 and 1912, the cry was "Australia is the most backward country in the world in wireless". Two years later, the operators of every British or foreign ship trading this way, if asked what coastal radio service was the best in the world, answered, without hesitation "Australian". This mushroom service was installed with Australian gear by a young Queensland engineer whom Prime Minister Fisher brought back from England and who used a system of his own invention.

Now, once again, the cry goes up "Australia is backward in wireless". This time, however, the reference is to inland and trans-ocean communication as distinct from marine working. With the signing of an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Amalgamated Wireless Company of Sydney, there is every likelihood of history repeating itself and within two years of Australia finding itself with the most up-to-date inland and long distance service in existence.

The agreement referred to is one in which the very efficient coastal stations and expert staffs now under the control of the Postmaster- General are being taken over, as a going concern, by the company, thus combining all the knowledge and experience available in the country under a private monopoly with the Federal Government holding the controlling number of shares 500,001 out of 1,000,000). There has been much bickering about the manner in which this agreement was arranged and, no doubt, political strings were successfully pulled in high places. But, be that as it may, the result is theoretically, undoubtedly the best organised and most business-like proposition possible under Australian management.

Experts disagree about the feasibility of Australia and England working a direct service. Professor Eccles, of England, contends that it is very doubtful. Mr. Marconi, on the other hand, anticipates no trouble. Many British ships equipped with the most modern receivers (valves) can rely, when off the Australian coast, on correcting their chronometers daily using wireless time signals transmitted by Nauen (Germany), Lyons (France), Annapolis (America) and other similar high pressure stations.

These ships also daily copy long press messages broadcast by the British Imperial Radio Station at Leafield, England. Some months ago the Applecross (W.A.) station intercepted this British press which was printed in the Perth newspapers one - and sometimes two - days before it arrived by cable. As it is proposed to erect transmitting stations much more powerful than in Leafield, it would appear that Marconi is right.

Those who disagree quote instances of wireless signals varying and fading out in an unaccountable manner. Off Roebourne, W.A., there is a magnetic reef which makes it impossible for ships in its immediate vicinity to work at all. Yet, when clear of it, signals can be heard and traffic worked as usual. Again, the Applecross station has much difficulty in working vessels near the Leeuwin, yet may work the same vessels when they are 2,500 miles off towards Durban or Colombo. Australian experience extending over the war years (many thousands of words of German press propaganda were copied at Applecross) and since indicates that radio signals from Europe vary inconsiderably in Australia. No doubt there are many spots like the Roebourne magnetic reef or Magnetic Island, Townsville unsuitable for wireless but, provided reasonable care is exercised by the selection of sites, there should be no difficulty in reading England successfully. In no other trade does success or failure rely so much upon the personal ability of the operator as is the case in wireless telegraphy. For fast, correct and long distance working, Australian radio telegraphists have a name second to none, and the company will, unlike most countries, open its long-distance services with skilled men at the key.

The agreement practically gives to the company a monopoly of Australia's future inland radio telephone service and it is losing no time in giving this country the benefits of this marvelous invention. Plans are already well advanced to give concerts by wireless in Melbourne and Sydney and, if successful, will be extended to Perth and every big centre.

Already Perth amateurs with inexpensive homemade receiving sets have heard the wireless telephone installed in the Domain radio station in Melbourne and, when conditions have been good, have rung up their friends and put the speech or Jazz music through the ordinary telephone to remote suburbs. Scientifically constructed and accurately timed receiving sets will soon be on the market which will enable inexperienced householders, by turning a switch, to listen to these concerts.

The Melbourne transmitter is of small power (expected to reach 500 miles only) so it needs but little imagination to see that it is an easy matter for a high power transmitter in Perth to send out daily programmes which could be picked up all over W.A. By utilising the intercepted British wireless press news (which is broadcast three times daily) the programme could commence with European news not more than 12 hours old in England, local political and general news, musical items and towards midnight, a few Jazzes, waltzes and the Lancers. (By using amplifiers and a gramophone horn, dancing, using music by wireless telephone, is easily managed).

The confidence thus gained would demonstrate the usefulness of wireless telephony to the owners of outlying stations and to isolated settlements who, by installing a transmitter as well as a receiver, could transact business or converse with friends, thus solving many problems which to-day obtain where communication is difficult and pleasures are few".

In September 1927, a number of newspapers carried the following story:


In the field of wireless there is no better known organisation than A.W.A. — otherwise Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. Incorporated in 1913, the Company at one concentrated on the installation of wireless apparatus on ships. To-day the majority of the ships of the Australian Mercantile Marine are equipped and operated by them. The Company also operates the whole of the Coastal Radio stations throughout Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, the purpose of which is to communicate with ships at sea.

The company were pioneers in Australia of the science of broadcasting and its rapid development is due, in no small measure, to the work of Mr. E. T. Fisk, Managing Director of A. W.A. and his staff of research engineers.

The first public demonstrations of broadcasting in Sydney were given by Mr. E. T. Fisk to an audience of more than 100 people at the Royal Society, Sydney in August, 1920. In October of the same year, Mr. Fisk arranged a complete public broadcast concert in the Queen's Hall, Federal Parliament House, Melbourne to a large audience. This was the third demonstration of broadcasting which had taken place in any part of the world - the first being the broadcasting of Dame Nellie Melba by the Marconi Company from its experimental station at Chelmsford, England, in June, 1920.

In December 1923, the broadcasting station of Farmer and Company (2FC Sydney), designed and installed by A. W.A., was opened. The broadcasting stations of 3LO, Melbourne, 4QG Brisbane, 5CL Adelaide and 6WF Perth were also designed and installed by A.W.A.

In order that these broadcasting stations should incorporate the very latest ideas, A. W.A. sent several of its Australian trained engineers to England, to the Continent of Europe and to America to investigate the large broadcasting stations in operation there. The result is that the Australian broadcasting stations can justly claim to be equal in every way to the largest broadcasting station abroad.

Another feature of the Company's business, — and a very important one — is the operation of the trans-ocean Beam Wireless Telegraph Service between England and Australia — one of the greatest wireless achievements in the world.

The prestige and reputation of A.W.A has been well maintained in regard to the manufacture of broadcast receivers. Wherever broadcast receivers are mentioned, you will hear nothing but enthusiasm for the A.W.A Radiola. In all of its six and eight valve Radiolas, the Company utilises the super betroydne principle, recognised by the foremost wireless engineers throughout the world as being the highest development in the art of receiver design. The principle makes possible the assembly, in a small metal container, of all the vital parts of the set.

[Editorial note: the following stations later became part of the ABC's Radio 2 network which later changed its name to Radio National and is now called RN.

2FC - Farmer & Co who owned the station until taken over by the ABC - began transmission on 5 December 1923 and officially went to air on 9 January 1924;

4QG - Queensland Government - began 27 July 1925;

5CL - Central Broadcasters Limited - began 20 November 1924;

Now part of the ABC's Local Radio network are:

3LO - LO originally stood for LONDON - is now called 774 ABC Melbourne;

6WF - originally owned by Westralian Farmers - is now called 720 ABC Perth.

Not to be pushed aside, 2BL began broadcasting on 23 November 1923 as 2SB (Broadcasters (Sydney) Limited but the call sign was soon changed to 2BL. It is now 702 Sydney and the flagship of ABCs Local Radio in New South Wales.

As Aunty once said, Thank God for the ABC!!!]


In June 1930, a number of newspapers around Australia carried the following story:


Speaking at a luncheon recently on the opening of the wireless telephone service to Great Britain and the Continent, Mr. E. T. Fisk, Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless, stated that a lot was often heard of what was being done in wireless in America, but he pertinently asked where in America had such an achievement as this trans-ocean wireless telephone service of 12,000 miles been put into operation?

Too often are we in Australia inclined to regard overseas records in wireless greater than those that have been and are being achieved in our country.

The wireless telephone service between Australia and Great Britain and the Continent of Europe, now in successful operation, was pioneered and established by Amalgamated Wireless, and is the result of painstaking research and experimental work carried put during long night vigils by Mr. Fisk and his engineers in Australia over a period of nearly seven years.

One has but to turn to any phase of wireless in Australia and there will be found the name of A.W.A who blazed the trail and continually kept Australian wireless in the forefront of the world's wireless development. Evidencing this is the Beam wireless service to Great Britain, the Continent of Europe and North and South America, now handling the greater part of Australia's overseas telegraphic communications: the efficient and comprehensive organisation of the coastal radio stations dotting the Australian coastline; the marine wireless services of Australasian ships; and the Pacific Island radio service, comprising wireless stations at Papua and New Guinea and the adjacent islands, providing communication facilities between Australia, Papua and New Guinea and inter-communication with the smaller islands of the Pacific. The Fijian wireless service has recently been taken over by Amalgamated Wireless and the stations have been reorganised and equipped with the most modern apparatus, thus providing wireless communication facilities between Australia and this important strategic British possession in the Pacific.

Pioneers of overseas broadcasting, the company's short wave station 2ME Pennant Hills, Sydney, is recognised as one of the world's finest short wave stations, its programmes having been received in Europe, America, Asia and even at the South Pole.

Amalgamated Wireless could not have made such progress nor achieved such records had not its equipment been wholly designed and manufactured in Australia. The company's first workshop, small and unpretentious, was laid down in 1914 and such has been the expansion of manufacturing that A.W.A., has recently acquired large works having a floor space of 75,000 square feet, at Parramatta Road, Ashfield, and will shortly produce every type of wireless equipment from the smallest component part to the largest transmitters.

Not only is the company at present designing and manufacturing all the wireless equipment for its varied communication services, but of recent years it had the unique experience of manufacturing transmitters for export to New Zealand, Fiji, Papua, Lord Howe Island and Tonga. In addition, Australian manufactured marine wireless equipment has been shipped to England for installation on ships being built there for Australian shipowners.

Having designed, manufactured, and installed transmitting equipment for the principal broadcasting stations in Australia, it is but natural that the company should manufacture receivers, the company's product being the A.W.A. "Radiola". The new model Radiolas, called the "Fisk" Series, after the managing director of the company, Mr. E. T. Fisk, are available in twelve different models, so that one should be hard to please if one cannot find a radiola model to suit one's purse and purpose.

Mr. Fisk points with pride - and justly so - to the fact that, from a modest beginning in 1913, the company to-day employs over 1,000 Australians who are endeavoring, by all available means, to develop the Australian wireless industry to its fullest extent. The value and extent of the company's activities is evidenced by the fact that to-day A.W.A. is known throughout the length and breadth of Australia as Australia's national wireless organisation.

The AWA Building was constructed on the site of 45-47 York Street in Sydney in 1939.

Its distinctively art-deco architecture ensured it instantly became a major landmark in Sydney. On top it had a large white radio tower (in the shape of the Eiffel Tower).

From 1939 to 1958, the AWA building and tower was the tallest building in Australia.

It remained the AWA head office until the 1990s and is now heritage listed.

AWA building