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Tuning into Melbourne’s Indian community: Wilma Serrao’s AIRS Fellowship journey

In Melbourne’s vibrant Indian community, community radio isn’t just background noise – it’s an integral part of daily life. Wilma Serrao, a PhD candidate from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, recently delved into the working dynamics of Indian radio stations in Melbourne as part of the Australia India Research Students (AIRS) Fellowship program. Here, she sheds light on the role of Indian radio in fostering a sense of community.

What motivated you to explore Indian radio stations in Australia, particularly as part of the Australia India Research Students (AIRS) Fellowship program?

My PhD research at Manipal Academy of Higher Education is focused on the impact of media on migrant communities residing in the United Arab Emirates. The AIRS Fellowship program provided a unique opportunity to gain a global perspective by studying Indian diaspora communities in Australia. 

Manpreet Kaur Singh
Wilma with Manpreet Kaur Singh, Program Manager at the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)

In Australia, and particularly Melbourne where my study was focused, the number of Indian radio stations has increased due to increased listenership and a move to digital broadcasting. This presented an excellent opportunity to explore how Indian radio stations contribute to the cultural fabric and fostering a sense of community among the diaspora.

What did your Fellowship entail?

I was hosted by Deakin University at the School of Communication and Creative Arts. My time was predominantly spent immersing myself in Melbourne's Indian radio scene and engaging with the local Indian community. Interacting directly with Melbourne's Indian community, whether through interviews or events, offered valuable insights into interpersonal dynamics, social structures, and community relationships. 

I studied how the Indian community engaged with radio programs, considering factors such as language, content relevance, and audience participation. 

It was fascinating to investigate what media means to a migrant community living in a foreign land and how media plays a prominent role in building a bridge between the expats and their home country. 

Can you share some early findings?

In the early stages of my research, I've found that Indian radio stations in Melbourne play a pivotal role in connecting the Indian diaspora with their cultural roots. These radio stations offer a sense of familiarity and belonging to expatriates, fostering a continued sense of connection with their homeland.

I also evaluated the digital presence of Indian radio, encompassing online streaming, podcasts, and engagement on social media platforms. This dimension is crucial in reaching a broader and more diverse audience. Moreover, I also studied the media consumption patterns of the Indian community, shedding light on their preferences and behaviours, which is essential for comprehending their media interactions and choices.

Wilma with her research mentor Dr. Simon Wilmot, Deakin University
Wilma with her research mentor Dr. Simon Wilmot, Deakin University

Beyond your research study, how was your overall Fellowship experience?

My broader Fellowship experience was incredibly enriching. I interacted with Deakin University’s media faculty, learning about their teaching methods and technology use. I also had the opportunity to share my own knowledge in filmmaking and curriculum development for Indian films.  

Additionally, I had the privilege of attending the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. I had the chance to meet and learn from industry leaders, including actors, directors, and producers, and watched some exceptional films featured during the festival. 

Wilma with the team at Radio Haanji.
Wilma with the team at Radio Haanji.

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