"Out of My Comfort Zone" How Jan Cannon Made Radio History - Hope 103.2

“Out of My Comfort Zone” How Jan Cannon Made Radio History

From radio trailblazer to primary carer for her grandchildren in New Zealand. Jan Cannon's life has taken many twists and turns.

By Georgia FreeThursday 9 Mar 2023Finding HopePodcastsReading Time: 4 minutes

On the 11th of July 1980, just after 2am, Jan Cannon spoke into a microphone – and radio history was made. She was the first woman to broadcast on commercial FM radio in Australia, a feat which has paved the way for countless women in media.

However, that is just one aspect of Jan’s story. Her life has taken many unexpected turns; she became a Christian as an adult, taught in a remote school in Western Australia and now is the primary carer for her grandchildren in New Zealand.

From radio lover to radio star

Jan loved radio from when she was a young girl, when a girl encouraged her to listen to a band called The Argonauts on the radio.

“I fell in love with it. It became my best companion,” Jan told the Finding Hope podcast.

“I virtually knew everything about radio from the time I finished school.”

When Jan heard about a job being advertised at 6PM in Perth – her favourite radio station – she immediately rang and asked for an interview. Much to her surprise, despite hundreds of girls going for the same job, Jan was hired.

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Jan started off as a ‘hotline chick’ – which was someone who answered the phones. However, Jan wanted to be a radio announcer more than anything. But she knew that it would take a lot of work to get in front of the microphone for the first time.

“I used to work until midnight, and when things got quiet, I would take myself off to the spare studio and teach myself what the guys on air were doing,” Jan said.

Eventually, it paid off.

Radio pioneer

When FM radio was about to begin in Australia, Jan got a call and asked if she would like to work for EONFM in Melbourne, Australia’s first commercial FM radio station. She jumped at the chance – and said goodbye to Western Australia – her home.

EON’s dial was switched on just after midnight on the 11th of July 1980. Jan was on air by 2am.

“I felt completely out of my comfort zone,” Jan said.

“The studio was like an office, with melamine walls. We’d hung hessian over the walls to absorb some of the sound.”

“I was sitting at a makeshift radio desk with two turntables that wriggled every time someone walked.”

“Fortunately, there wasn’t too many people around at 2am.”

And so, Jan’s time on commercial FM radio began. Jan honed her craft over many years, becoming a leading radio announcer in both Melbourne and Perth – where she moved back to after having her first child.

Although she was one of the only women on radio at the time, Jan never felt pressured or threatened.

“If someone wanted to know how to do what I did, I would show them,” Jan said.

“But I never felt a sense of competition.”

“I always thought that if someone wanted my job and was better than me, then they could have it.”

Microphone to the classroom

Eventually, due to financial pressures, Jan left radio to become a teacher. Much like her radio career, Jan was determined to learn everything she could about teaching. Her career took her to remote Western Australia as a teacher and principal, before, eventually, becoming a university lecturer.

Today, she is the primary carer for her four grandchildren in New Zealand – a role which has had one of the steepest learning curves of her life. However, Jan has responded with gusto and was subsequently named New Zealand’s Carer of the Year in 2022.

“I’ve thrown myself into this and learnt as much as I possibly can about [childhood trauma] and how to overcome it and live positive lives,” Jan said.

“I really believe this is God’s calling on my life.”

Finding Christ

Although Jan had a full life as a radio presenter, she knew there was something missing. When she was in her early 30s, she joined Amway – a multi-level health and beauty marketing company that help people lead healthier and more empowered lives. And it was through this, that Jan’s life reached a turning point. Through reading empowering self-help books, Jan realised that many of them were Christian.

“I loved the wisdom that I was being exposed to in those books,” Jan said.

“So I became more and more a follower of Christ.”

“And then one day under a gumtree, I gave my life to Christ.”

33 years later, Jan’s passion and love for Christ exudes from her bones. However, she is careful not to call herself a Christian.

“I call myself a Christ follower,” Jan said.

“Lots of people call themselves Christians and I wonder where their walk is.”

“But I like to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and develop the mind of Christ.”

“I just hand it all to Him, and ask Him to make my paths straight.”

“And He does. He will never leave us.”

Listen to Jan’s full interview on Finding Hope in the player above.