Saturday, November 25, 2017

Celebrating 50 editions of Ferntree Gully News

With the December 2017 issue my local community paper Ferntree Gully News celebrates the 50th edition.

© Barbara Oehring 2017

I am proud to have been involved as photographer since its inception 8 years ago.

The story of the newspaper cannot be better told than by editor Anne Boyd on page 5 of the celebratory edition:

Carpe diem

The story of a newspaper Community Bank People often ask me ‘how do you make things happen?’ There are a lot of answers to that but one of them is ‘get the timing right’.

With hindsight that seems very true about the start up, in 2009, of Ferntree Gully News.
 In April 2009, just months after Black Saturday, the Ferntree Gully Community (Bendigo) Bank hosted a meeting to set up a new incorporated Village Traders Association and a tabloid newspaper. Membership of the association would be open to businesses and to the community groups that cluster around this historical centre. The association and the paper could be a voice to Knox Council in the forthcoming consultations on renewing the village streetscape.

I was at the meeting to represent Neighbourhood Watch. In the aftermath of the bushfires I was concerned that neither a small Neighbourhood Watch newsletter nor a village newsletter were enough to promote community safety in such a high fire risk area as the Gully. The prospect of a full-scale tabloid newspaper set me thinking.

The meeting ended with a steering group for a new Village Traders Association. Bank Board member (and newsagent) Des Higginbotham would preside; bank manager Tina Leslie would be treasurer. I put my hand up to edit the newspaper and initially to be secretary of the group (a role that was later taken over by Mountain District Learning Centre). The rest, as they say, is history.

The first issue of Ferntree Gully News appeared in Sept 2009, a full colour tabloid with 12 pages and 3000 copies. Formal auspicing of the paper was offered by Mountain District Learning Centre who have maintained this oversight and support ever since. The community owes them a debt of thanks for the stability of governance that has allowed the newspaper to grow to its present stature.
Now, eight years on, we are celebrating the 50th edition of Ferntree Gully News: a 28-page bi-monthly community paper produced and delivered by more than 50 volunteers to 10,000 households and business in the postcode 3156.

From the start Gully News has been financed mainly by local business. The Ferntree Gully Community Bank is the major advertiser/sponsor. Eight small village businesses have advertised from the start. Others have joined in and stayed. They have found that ‘people read this paper’ and support the businesses that advertise. Ray Abley’s Professionals Estate Agency in Mountain Gate is also a major advertiser and Ray has encouraged other businesses in Mountain Gate to support the paper. Support has also come from Knox Council and from local politicians especially State MP for Ferntree Gully, Nick Wakeling, and Federal MP for Aston, Alan Tudge who both sponsor pages. Their early advice, especially, to think beyond the village to the whole of Ferntree Gully, was invaluable.

In 2010 we joined Community Newspapers Association of Victoria (CNAV), the umbrella body for not-for-profit community newspapers. We have attended their conference every year since and have learned a lot from fellow papers in Knox and beyond. We are proud to have featured over the years in all nine categories of award including twice finalist in Best Newspaper. Our formatter, Jens-Kristian Toft Hansen is this year President of CNAV.

I want to thank especially the Ferntree Gully community for being such a special place and for providing such a talented band of writers and photographers. And above all thank you to the wonderful band of volunteers who get the paper out and deliver over 10,000 copies from Scoresby Road to the foothills of the Dandenongs. Many of them have been with us from the first.

People sometimes say that newspapers are dying. It is true that our business model needs volunteer workers but the fact that walkers keep offering to deliver and business to advertise is an indication that we are filling a need. We learnt at the conference this year that the only papers still with rising advertising are the very local community papers. We hope it stays that way.

Anne Boyd

To view the 50th edition of the Ferntree Gully News as well as previous issues please go to

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