Author: Alan, 5B4AHJ
On 1956-06-01 amateurs resident in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) were issued with callsigns with the VK1 prefix. They had used VK2 prefixes prior to that.
Before that date, the VK1 prefix was used by stations operating from Australian Antarctic Territory (the DXCC entity of Antarctica), Heard Island and Macquarie Island and also from Cocos Island.
The first ANARE base was at Heard Island, which was established in December, 1947, followed by a base on Macquarie in 1948. The first ANARE base on continental Antarctica was not established until 1954.
RSGB Bulletin August 1954 reports that the first Australian Call Book listed VK1 stations from Antarctica and Cocos Island.
VK1RA was QRV from Mawson Base in September, 1956 and from Heard I in 1963.
The VK9 prefix is used for Australian External Territories. This includes the DXCC entities of Australia (off-shore islands), Christmas Island, Cocos-Keeling, Lord Howe Island, Mellish Reef, Norfolk Island, and Willis Island, as well as the deleted entities of Papua Territory and Territory of New Guinea, and Nauru before independence.
Traditionally, the first letter of the suffix indicated the territory (for the history of this, see reference to DXNS below). Thus:
VK9C = Cocos-Keeling (VK9Y until 1992)
VK9L = Lord Howe Island (VK9H until 1992)
VK9M = Mellish Reef
VK9N = Norfolk Island
VK9W = Willis Island
VK9X = Christmas Island
However, there have been numerous exceptions to this rule, and further changes were made in 2006 and 2009 (see below).
Callsigns of novice stations, from 1975 on were of the format VK#Nxx.
Thus VK9Nxx was not necessarily a Norfolk Island callsign.
DX News-Sheet #403, dated 1969-12-16, published by Geoff Watts, reports:
VK9 - Since 1969-07-01, all new (VK9) callsigns will be issued in the following groups (existing licences are not affected):
VK9AA-9MZ Papua & New Guinea
VK9NA-NZ Norfolk Island
VK9XA-VK9XZ Christmas Island
VK9YA-VK9YZ Cocos-Keeling Islands
DX News-Sheet #1472, dated 1991-06-26, published by the Radio Society of Great Britain, reports:
VK9 - VK9 prefixes are once again being issued according to the island as follows:
VK9C - Cocos-Keeling Islands
VK9M - Mellish Reef
VK9N - Norfolk Island
VK9X - Christmas Island
VK9C - Cocos-Keeling Islands
There is no mention of Lord Howe Island in either of the above two references.
VK9 calls from 2006-01-01 until 2009-10-31
The 2006-01-01 is my best estimate, I have found nothing on the ACMA or WIA web sites.
During this period, VK9 callsigns were structured as follows.
All callsigns had a three-letter suffix.
The first letter of the suffix indicated the licence class.
The second letter of the suffix indicated the Australian External Territory [C, L, M, N, W or X]
Examples: VK9DNX (Norfolk Island), VK9DWX (Willis Island).
VK9 calls from 2009-11-01
On 2009-11-01, the licensing arrangements for the VK9 call area became the same as for the other Australian call areas.
All VK9 licensees, including overseas visitors, are able to operate under the portable provisions of the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Amateur Licence) Determination No.1 of 1997, in any External Territory or mainland state or territory.
Although the structure of callsigns allocated to amateur licences authorising operation in the External Territories (VK9) reflects the three licence categories (Advanced, Standard or Foundation), they do not include a letter to denote a specific operating location. (my italics)
VK0 replaced VK1 as the prefix for Australian Antarctic Territory (the DXCC entity of Antarctica), Heard Island and Macquarie Island, after the VK1 prefix was assigned to amateurs in ACT on 1956-06-01.
One of the early VK0 stations QRV from Antarctica was VK0AS, who was QRV from Mawson Base in 1957. The VK0AS QSL can be viewed on F6AJA's Les Nouvelles DX site.
For further information on the history of amateur radio callsigns in Australia, the reader is referred to Australian Amateur Radio Callsigns - A History Overview by David Burger, K3HZ http://www.ewh.ieee.org/r10/nsw/subpages/history/History_of_Radio_callsigns_in_Australia.pdf