The History of the Elizabeth Amateur Radio Club

Started by VK5ZT, Aug 24, 2023, 04:48 PM

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Club history 1959-2023.

The club was formed in the post-war boom period where immigration to Australia was encouraged. This coincided with the cold-war tensions where there was massive investments in new military systems including British nuclear weapons and rocketry. To house the new migrants, Elizabeth opened in 1956 with many commercial companies setting up in the area, the largest being the General Motors Holden plant. Elizabeth was built on former farmland next to a wartime munitions area which by then was designated the Weapons Research Establishment(WRE) and the RAAF Edinburgh airbase was also constructed there around the same time. Many overseas military manufacturers of high tech components set up factories in the WRE area and many technicians, engineers and scientists came to Australia to work in these companies.

As these new factories were immediately adjacent to Elizabeth, many of the workers naturally decided to live in the area. All the houses were new and new suburbs were being opened up. Staff rotations through the RAAF base also added to the population. Many of the technical staff from the military firms were amateur radio operators in their original countries, primarily from the UK, and the concentration of radio personnel in the area was a catalyst to others becoming ham operators. By the late 1950s the growing amateur population decided to form the Elizabeth Amateur Radio Club which was assigned the callsign VK5LZ in 1959. In the sixties, the club was quite large and probably the largest in SA at the time.

By the mid-sixties meetings were being held in a church hall in Elizabeth Grove that also housed a business run by one of the club's members. Members filled the hall and if you did not arrive early you did not get a seat! The late sixties and early seventies saw membership peak and then commence a slow decline as the military work wound down and companies and people left the area and the hobby. The club had other 'homes' including a sea-scout hall in Elizabeth East in the seventies. The seventies also saw the rise of CB radio which brought a massive increase in radio minded people who wanted more than what CB had to offer. The new Novice licence was introduced and the club ran training courses for prospective hams in the late seventies.

The new hams kept the club viable and around 1980 a significant change occurred. For a peppercorn rental, the club was able to negotiate use of an abandoned water tower in Elizabeth South as its permanent headquarters. During the eighties and early nineties, a great effort was undertaken to make use of the space and the height of the tower with much construction work in what started out as a bare shell. This same period saw the demise of the local division of the WIA and the transfer of the Equipment Supply committee and the VHF group to the Elizabeth Club. This was a turbulent period of great activity that saw the tower used for many things. The tower houses repeaters and microwave beacons along with APRS and has hosted packet radio and TV repeaters along with a HF station.

With the advent of UHF TV, the tower also hosted UHF repeaters to service the northern suburbs shielded from Mt Lofty TV transmitters by the hills. In the nineties, mobile phones arrived and all the local providers were able to get access to the tower to host cellular equipment. It is now a crowded RF environment compared to the early days of the club's occupancy. The early 2000s saw another licencing change to introduce the Foundation licence and the abandonment of the morse requirement. This prompted a surge in new licences and the revival of many dormant operators back into the hobby with an increase in club participation as well.

Unfortunately, the conversion of the tower to a 'communications facility' brought with it changes that the club has found hard to deal with, especially safety issues with the landlord. Our access to the tower has been dramatically curtailed resulting in equipment failures due to lack of maintenance and the action of other tenants in the tower. We are working to resolve these issues and it has been a long and tortuous road but hopefully an end is in sight!

The club has always been competition oriented, competing in field days and contests. The early days saw rivalry between it and the Moorabbin club (now rolled into Eastern & Mountain Districts) in Victoria during contests. It has also held hidden transmitter hunts (foxhunts) and hamfests over the years. More recently it has become a leading club in SA for microwave and optical experimentation with a history of scoring well in VHF/UHF field days. It is only the second club in Australia to win the Remembrance Day President's Trophy.



A great read Tim.

Many Service and allied personnel have been and still are avid ham operators, although fewer that in the last 20 years.  Much easier to communicate with family around the world via the internet!


John  (VK5RJ)
John  (VK5RJ)
AHARS President