ALARA members hail from all over Australia, and we also have our sponsored DX members scattered around the world.

Our members vary in age from schoolgirls to retirees; we have varied backgrounds and careers, along with our families and other hobbies and interests.

You can read about some of our members on these pages and learn a little about their background to discuss next time you meet them on air!

Sue VK5AYL

Sue is our techie YL! Those of us who are into chasing or activating 'Parks & Peaks' have probably used the App but may not be familiar with the lady behind it...

What kinds of things do you currently do with ham radio?

alara member I'm quite involved with Parks & Peaks, always hunting or chasing activators. In August 2020, we went on a 5 week caravan trip around SA and I activated a number of parks during that time, with all the issues that can happen during an activation making it a lot more interesting! I'm re-learning CW and have also setup FT8 but haven't really used it as yet. I would love to get back into Amateur Television. This year I've been the Contest Manager for Alara and enjoyed the challenges involved in dealing with all the logs that came in. I do love to rag chew, so from time to time you will hear me calling CQ on 40m usually in the afternoon. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and talking about lots of things. I also love experimenting with the Arduino and getting involved with JOTA.

How did you get into Amateur Radio?

sue standing in front of radios I started with CB radio in my mid 20s when I was a supporting Mum with 2 children, life was hard back then. One of my friends setup a magnetic base whip on the carport roof and gave me an old AM CB radio and pointed to the emergency channel. It was very basic but was meant to give me some security because I couldn't afford a telephone. After a few weeks of listening, I decided to answer someone on the call channel. I just loved talking to people. One night there was a knock on the door from a young man holding a DF Loop. He turned out to be a local Amateur (Tony VK5NSA) who told me I was splattering every band on his Amateur radio. I asked him what Amateur Radio was so the next day he gave me an ARRL Handbook, told me to get my licence (to stop splattering him) and also showed me Amateur TV on 579MHz. I was hooked.

What is your biggest ham-related success?

graphic In the early 80s I was involved in building an ATV repeater at our rented home in Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. I was the secretary and newsletter editor of the group. We wanted a repeater opening screen with the callsign so I filled in squares on grid paper stuck together. On each grid row, coloured squares were 1 and empty squares were zero (binary). I typed each binary row into a Commodore Vic 20 program written in Assembler and whenever users connected to the repeater the callsign would appear. It took up the whole screen. Many ATV users in the mountains used the repeater. We were in the process of experimenting with Gladesville as well, then we had to move!
The Parks and Peaks app has been a big success, people from all over the world have downloaded it, although it is only for Australian & New Zealand Amateurs. I've had a lot of support from the community which I very much appreciate.

What are your favourite non-radio activities?

I love reading and would like to join the local book and photography clubs. I also enjoy walking & gardening when I get off my computer chair!! Programming is probably one of my favourite things to do and the Parks & Peaks app gives me a chance to sit down and get stuck into something new.
Astronomy is also a favourite pastime. We have a dome in our backyard with a telescope on an equatorial mount and the roof moves with the telescope. Still a work in progress but eventually we will be able to point at a star on a computer and the whole thing will align so that the telescope automatically points at the star. Most of it is working but in the end, we want to sit in the family room and view the sky on the TV!! We would like to do planetary photography in future.
My husband and I are also into model railroad and have a large layout in our shed which is very much a work in progress. I built this section of a roundhouse and we had a visitor overnight, who really loved it! Next was the London tube, it was a kit made out of cardboard, very fiddly and not quite finished yet. This is where I learnt how to stick my fingers to my face with super glue! The helix is how the trains will climb to another part of the layout that is high up and the gradient must be under 3% for this to be successful.

model trains
Section of Roundhouse & Turntable
model trains
The visitor who loved my handywork!
model trains
The London Tube
model trains
The Helix

How have you benefited from being an ALARA member?

None of my girlfriends are the slightest bit interested in ham radio or anything electronic, in fact they all think I'm weird but when their phones/computers misbehave, they know who to call!! So it has been great to talk to the women in Alara and to find out more about their interests and how they got started. I would love to inspire young women to educate themselves, think outside the square and reach their full potential. The women in Alara are a really impressive bunch, women from all walks of life who have a passion for the hobby and have found it interesting and challenging.

What unique opportunities has ham radio given you?

astronomy observation dome Getting my full call gave me a belief in myself. When I found there were only around 100 women in Australia who had a full call back then, I realised that I could do anything I wanted with my life, providing I was willing to work hard and that's exactly what I did.
I studied Electronic Engineering for 12 months at TAFE At Regency Park in Adelaide when I first got my licence and while I really enjoyed the course and learnt a lot, I had to give it away to return to full time work.
In the early 80s, living in the Blue Mountains, I decided to study the Data Processing Certificate full time at TAFE in Penrith. At the end of the course, I moved back to SA and worked in Local Govt for 8 years as IT Manager and Analyst/Programmer. The Council had no computers at all when I started working there but I changed all that with a new Unisys mainframe, 20 PCs, a Novell network connected to the mainframe, a mapping system and a building and planning system I had written. It was all bleeding edge stuff, especially for someone who had just walked out of TAFE a few short years earlier! I taught intro computing subjects at TAFE in the evenings to help pay for my new house. I also did further studies in the Diploma of Information Systems, I still have a real passion for learning new things. Without ham radio, these opportunities would have never come my way.

What do you do for work?

screenshot of app For nearly 35 years, I was everything from IT Manager and Analyst/Programmer working on business applications for a variety of Govt Authorities and Companies in SA. I also contracted for 10 years and had my own Software business. For the last 13 years, I worked for an International Company in Adelaide developing software for many of their branches around the world.
Just before I retired, I wanted to write an app, so I started working on an iPhone/iPad app for Parks & Peaks. This was new territory for me and the most challenging thing I've done in a long time. I tossed my Windows PC, bought a Mac and started learning Swift, the new Apple language. The app includes Spots, Alerts, QSO Logging and Find Sites (WWFF parks, SOTA summits etc). Amateurs can plan their activations by finding sites near their current location (based on GPS co-ordinates) or searching the Sites database on their device and showing them on the map included in the app. The ParksnPeaks app is on the App Store and free for Australian/New Zealand Amateurs to download.
Since I started developing the app, I've been head hunted on a weekly basis for Software Engineering/programming roles with iOS. Unfortunately, I'm retired from working now but still enjoying app development. My career has given me so much more than I ever dreamed of and I have ham radio to thank for that.
I can finally call myself a Software Engineer.