By ERWIN CHLANDA
“I’m a man who is blessed with an amazing family, good friends, a place I love and an awesome job.”
This message, heading up the Facebook page of Gerry Terati Lyons, is still true except for the last two words.
Gerry Terati Lyons? That’s Gman, as he is known to countless people around town, friendly, smiling, helpful, a laugh a minute, last year’s Centralian of the Year, and the face and sound of CAAMA Radio.
Until his shock resignation as station manager yesterday, that is.
A source speaking on the condition of not being named says CAAMA is implementing an “Aboriginalisation” program and non-Aboriginal people will get the heave-ho.
If this is the case then the white, long-time news editor, Paul Wiles, will be among those next to go.
The Alice Springs News Online is seeking comment from the CAAMA management.
According to its website, CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, came to life in 1982 with the establishment of radio station 8KIN FM.
Any purge on the basis of ethnicity is unlikely to spread to Imparja: Although CAAMA holds a majority (13) of Imparja’s 23 shares, plus one in trust, it cannot impose its will on the Aboriginal-owned TV station because under its rules, board decisions have to be unanimous.
Only 15% of Imparja’s 30 staff are Indigenous (scarcely better than the ratio at the Town Council).
Imparja’s other shareholders include the Northern and the Central Land Councils, Top End Aboriginal Broadcasting, and Yuendumu-based PAW Media.
Meanwhile Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan – also non-Aboriginal – is full of praise for Gman: “He just worked tirelessly on the development and growth of the radio station.
“His radio presence was extraordinary.
“He managed to assemble great radio guys around him. I hope they have the people there to continue to deliver,” says Mr Feehan.
“Sixteen years is a lot of intellectual property to walk out of the the door.”
This is what Gman told his Facebook friends yesterday: “It is with a sad heart and great memories that I have resigned from CAAMA [after] 16 years of which six were as a volunteer.
“I have totally loved this job and am proud of what has been achieved over these years. Great staff past and present and the remote engagement has been awesome.
“Jim Remedio, Paul Wiles and Warren H Williams were there from day one and I thank them for their support of me.
“I have been the longest station manager CAAMA has had and I am proud of what has been achieved in this time.
“To be from another culture and welcomed by Aboriginal mob far and wide has been amazing. It is what drove me to stay.
“The last few months have been difficult but I am a stronger person for experiencing these events,” wrote Gman.
“CAAMA Radio has a dynamic news team like no other.
“Paul Wiles you are such a professional in all ways and always put CAAMA first. RESPECT!
“Lastly my radio supporters [and] listeners far and wide, I have loved being on air and broadcasting into your home and lives. What a privilege it has been. THANK YOU.”
IMAGES: Gman with Young Central Australian of the Year Cindy Uzzell (Alice Springs News Online photo) • In the CAAMA studio • Gman in the foreground, behind him Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Paul Wiles is at right.
By ERWIN CHLANDA