A History of The Winchelsea Star

Compiled by B & M Gregory from notes provided by various Winchelsea residents who were or are associated with the Star newspaper.

Firstly, we should see what the "Coast to Country" (B & M Gregory, 1985) records say as a brief history of the Star;

The Winchelsea Star newspaper, of modern times, was born out of the Winchelsea Self-Study conducted in 1976, when the need was felt for greater local communication within the community. The first meeting held to launch the Star was held in May 1977, with Theresa Napthine in the Chair. Alick Waineright was appointed the first editor. He had retired from farming and was able to put a great deal of time and effort into making the newspaper the success it has become. Mr Waineright retired as editor in 1981. Many other community-minded people also worked tirelessly to make sure that the paper had material worthy of print and that it was put out on time. Since 1977, an average of 400 copies has been sold each week.

At the commencement of publication, sixteen people were involved, but now that number has grown to thirty-one. A bank loan of $6,000 in 1979 enabled an off-set printer and plate maker to be purchased, and this equipment, housed at the School, enabled the first 'in-house' edition to be produced on the 4th October. At the time the Lions Club donated a camera, although the first photos had appeared the year before, recording the school centenary celebrations of April 1976. By late 1981, the bank loan had been repaid, and in the following year equipment was moved from the school to the premises in Harding Street (Budge's joinery works). The Star organisation also printed three editions of a local telephone book (the "TIB"), a Shire Community Information Booklet for the Council, and carried out other small printing jobs. Other editors have included Pam Barron, Julie Cornwall and Betty McDonald, in 1984 the Secretary was John Breedveld and Treasurer Barry Doyle (State Bank Manager).

An article in the Winchelsea Star, in 1984, by Mick O'Mara, gives us some information on the Star's predecessors;

Some years ago ... I found that there had been two newspapers centred in this area.

The first to appear, was in the 1890s and was called the Winchelsea and Birregurra 'Star' and the second was called the Winchelsea 'Mercury' and appeared about the 1920s. The Committee (in 1977) decided on the name 'Winchelsea Star' and I got the job of tracing the original heading which, after being reduced on a photo copier, now appears as it did in the 1890s. Incidentally, the present day 'Star' has fared better than its predecessors, which only lasted about two years each.

Let us now see what people have written about the Star.
First of all from Joan Worland:

A Self Study was held in Winchelsea in 1976 and one of the identified needs was a local newspaper.
Len Monk (Assistant Shire Secretary) and Theresa Napthine, member of the Social Development Committee, were given the task of setting up the newspaper. After a lot of thought they approached various people in the town who they felt had the necessary qualifications, time and ability to do the work. These people met and decided on the name, banner and format of the paper. These people were - Alick Wainewright, Editor, Sub-Editors - Toni Worland, Jan Keane, Stewart Mathison and Peter Walsh. Copy Manager - Joan Worland, Production Manager - Stewart Mathison, Treasurer - John East (Manager State Bank), Advertising Manager - Mick O'Mara, Typists - Suzanne Plunkett, Barbara Schroeter. Someone picked up the typed news and put it on the train to Geelong to Mr Opit, who printed it. On return it was distributed to four shops to be sold.

Tim Bracher was involved somewhere in the early days of production.

Finances were a problem in the beginning and fund raisers had to be run to make ends meet. These included film nights at the Globe Theatre, and a Fancy Dress Ball (very successful).

However, with Mr Opit continually putting the prices up it looked like bankruptcy. A very serious meeting was held to discuss going into debt to purchase a printing machine. The voting was split and Mr Wainewright used his casting vote to buy the machine. Stewart Mathison grew to know a great deal about the machines and John East was very good with gradually reducing the debt. The Star would not have survived if it had stayed with Mr Opit. The Barwon Bunyip became a very popular fortnightly feature with the writer's name being kept a very close secret. The bunyip's box was kept at the local school or Bob Keane's chemist shop and the school children were encouraged to contribute their own work. Now the pages consist of competitions done by the present bunyip. Colouring competitions are a favourite with the children.

And now to Mick O'Mara -

In the final year I taught at Winchelsea HES (1974) I felt that too often families in dire straits were offered housing at the Housing Commission area opposite the school as the only alternative.

In an effort to gain support for some of the destitute families I instigated the newly formed Rate Payers Association to take a deputation to Cec. Bergin (MLA Polwarth). He referred the matter to, among others, the Barwon Regional Council for Social Development who offered to do a self study of Winchelsea under the sponsorship of the Ratepayers Association (Not sure of the lines of communication).

Two of the "needs" identified in the Self Study resulted in Winch House and Winchelsea Star.

During 1977, as part of a research project on Winchelsea aboriginies I read through the early newspapers - ie. Winchelsea "Mercury" and "Winchelsea and Birregurra Star". I mentioned these early newspapers at a meeting called to set up a community newspaper and was sent back to take a tracing of the banner. The "and Birregurra" section was cut out and the remainder became the Winchelsea Star using an identical style to the original.

I was the first Advertising Manger; the job consisted of approaching local and Geelong businesses to advertise. Car dealers and funeral directors were easy marks and the early editors of the Star had a preponderance of both. The future of the Star was so uncertain that when the Datsun car dealer offered to pay for 6 months advertising I knocked it back in favour of 3 months as we were not certain that the Star would continue for more than three months!!

And now Len Monk gives us his contribution -

While the impetus for the Star was the Self Study and the Social Development Committee, I believe there was a more important factor. To me the Star is a very special symbol of something wonderful in the Winchelsea Community. It was a coming together of

  • the established members of the Winchelsea community welcoming and working with newer community members and the openness of established members to new ideas.
  • the new comers responding enthusiastically to this welcome and openness. With energy, adaptability and endurance, they made a commitment to the Winchelsea community and took on a new way of life.

In short the Star was the offspring of a happy marriage between the natives and the newcomers.

The foregoing may not be history but it's a reflection on history.

Len now provides the text of a talk he gave at the Star dinner on 29/1/1996 - titled "Early Days and Philosophy".

I have been asked to talk about how the Winchelsea Star began and the philosophy that guided its establishment back in 1977. I can't remember a lot of details but I can certainly remember the philosophy.

The reason for starting the newspaper was pretty obvious. Society was changing and Winchelsea was changing. We had to do better than relying on networks of friends for information when we were becoming a more mobile population, when traditions were being questioned and new ways of doing things adopted.

My involvement with the Shire confirmed the need for a town newspaper; at that time, the Shire communicated with its residents through a couple of notices in shop windows and a notice in the public notices column of the Geelong Advertiser and the Colac Herald.

Of course the Winchelsea Self Study of 1976 recommended "that a news-sheet be looked into as soon as possible" and, as a member of the Winchelsea Social Development Committee, I was asked to do the "looking into".

I found that plenty of newsletters had been commenced at other similar-sized towns but that the work had always been left to one or a small few dedicated souls who within a year or so had burnt themselves out; these newsletters all had a fairly short life. It was not encouraging and led to the development of three major organisational principles on which the Star was founded. I will return to those principles shortly.

But it is important to remember that the Star was born out of the Self Study, and that the Self Study saw the newspaper not just as a means of sharing information but also as an agent of community development.

There are not many aspects of those early days which I can recall. Theresa Napthine reminded me of how I argued strongly that there should be a charge for the paper - because people value what they pay for, because it is more truly a community paper when the community volunteers the resources to run it, and because the money would help pay the bills!

I remember that the name "Winchelsea Star" came from research by Mick O'Mara when he was studying for library qualifications, [Mick has been involved in just about everything]. He discovered that the two previous newsletters in Winchelsea had been called "The Winchelsea and Birregurra Star" and the "Winchelsea Mercury". "Star" was chosen.

I remember seeking Myrtle Wainewright's permission to ask her recently retired husband, Alex, to take on the Editorship. Myrtle took some persuading; then Alex graciously accepted. To turn to the philosophy behind the establishment of the Star Organisation, there were three major principles employed - the Star was to be

  • community based
  • structured for continuity, and
  • would have checks and balances to minimise bias and interest group control within the organisation

I wish to explain these principles in a little more detail.

(1) Community basis
The organisation was analysed and jobs designed to break the work up into meaningful components. Participation was needed more than professionalism. The organisation was designed to involve a range of people and, in this way, was a symbol of what it was all about - building community.

(2) Continuity
On the assumption that people move ie. move house, get sick, have other involvements or simply burn out, the Star organisation had a built-in apprenticeship scheme; the Manager of every area of responsibility had an assistant manager who received on-the-job training. The primary purpose of the assistant was

  • to be next in line should the Manager leave; and
  • immediately find a new assistant [so the process could be continued]

Of course, given the spread of work where everyone had a little to do, there would be less burn out any way and it was easier to attract replacements. The key was to organise correctly in the first place.

(3) Checks and balances
So that the organisation did not represent one group or view in the community, the work was divided into 3 major areas;

  • 'The weekly grind' which meant physically putting the newspaper together ie. getting copy and advertising, typing, printing, distribution
  • Sub-editing which meant designing the shape of each newspaper; making decisions on content - order - headlines - and presentation; it meant developing the interest, balance and style of the paper. To give greater life and variety to each edition, the sub-editors were rotated.
  • Editing was an arm's length review which sought to avoid liability by ensuring any controversy was fairly treated and there was a sense of propriety ie. not offensive, and generally applied with a bit of wisdom. The Editor needed to be an experienced, well respected person who would look at the final draft with fresh eyes.

Now it is the way of human nature that as technology improved, the separate jobs wold be more and more combined; simply because it is more efficient. That's progress. But we have to ask a question: is it more effective?

Before we can answer that, we need to think through what the purpose of the paper is and how does it achieve respect and credibility. Well, in those early days, we felt that the Star was not just for sharing information but also for promoting understanding, for building bridges, and for being an example of community teamwork.

To do that we organised ourselves to get a range of community people involved, we structured it for continuity and we set up separate controls and an extra dose of common sense. There is a natural tendency for power to concentrate and running a newspaper is an exercise in power; so we proactively organised to spread involvement and safeguard a variety of inputs.

We can sometimes lose sight of where we started. Recalling the past helps us to be more sure footed in approaching the future. Remembering the principles and purpose of our enterprise can inspire us to take risks and put in the effort to work for our own newspaper with clearer vision, higher ideals.

Len also provided a copy of the Winchelsea Self Study Follow Up - 1980.

Winchelsea Star

The Star was given resounding praise. It is well distributed and read. Its content is broad and appreciated. It acts to inform people regularly and effectively of the changing scene.

Some interviewees expressed concern that sufficient information was directed to the Star for publication. Several people wanted it to become more of a forum for reflecting personal opinions. However, in general the feeling was very positive eg.

- This news sheet be looked into as soon as possible to facilitate greater co-operation, implementation and awareness of recommendation of this report

- There be wider communication of Council policies, decisions, and facilities and local events through regular news-sheets circulated or available to all the town.


Since the establishment of a local weekly paper, the Winchelsea Star, communications have improved.

Barney Parsons tells of his job as Copy Manager for the Star;

To give Joan Worland relief from her duty as Copy Manager for a month I took on the role. Joan found it difficult to get involved in the role again as she had other jobs on. It was a huge task to follow in her footsteps as she had done it so well for 12 years.

Joan and I often conferred both while she was Copy Manager and later when I did it. Our main question was 'Got anything we can put in as we are short of news.' Often with one or two worthwhile articles and a flurry of phone calls, a little prod and up came a paper worthy of any small town's weekly newspaper.

Sunday nights came quickly. The job of putting together the news , sport, advertisements and 'fillers' in some format, ready for the sub-editors, was often concerning. I knew well that the Repertory Society needed to have something in, Joe Blo needed to advertise their function, football news would be late but essential and so on. Then a phone call 'keep me half a page, will have it to the typist by noon' was oh so common.

Thanks must to go the 'Subbies' for the hours put into their job so conscientiously in order to make the typists' job as easy as possible. Counting words to establish the number of lines needed for the article firstly and allocating a place on a page, aiming to get the more important articles early in the publication. Photos were also important to place them with their article - often caused headaches. 'You cannot have photos back to back, they don't print' was the order of the day.

Where there is a downside there always has to be an upside. Work completed and that often got quite late, a cuppa and a chat made it all well worth while.

As part of the original Self Study team, the lack of local information was to me one of the most important aspects - so the Star aimed to fill this void. Council meetings, sports presentations and everything in between, were important so I aimed to fill the role of news collector and photographer. Sincere thanks to everyone who made the job as Copy Manager manageable. I must conclude with a special mention again of the work done by Joan Worland.

Joan Worland has provided the following list of people she remembers as having contributed over the last twenty years to the successful operation of the Winchelsea Star;

Alick Wainewright, Julie Cornwall (Hayes), Theresa Napthine, Anna Jennings

Toni Worland, Jan Keane, Stewart Mathison, Peter Walsh, Alison Parish, Wendy Hole, Kevin Caine, Judy Lewis, Better Terrier, Joan Worland, Tim Bracher, Jon Breedveld, Steve Funston, Prue O'Mara, Marg McDonald, Morven Warner, Barbara Walters, Jim Fields, Judy Lewis, Lorraine Armistrong, Florence Vesey, Dianne Porter, Jan Budge

Bob Keane, Helen Lord, Len Monk (Interim Secretary)

Maureen Webb (Secretary to the Editor), Pauline Partridge (Secretary to the Editorial Board), Dorothy Bracher, J Breedveld, Barry Doyle, Jim Bracher, John Rowley (Current)

Copy Manager
Joan Worland (12 years), Barney Parsons, Robyn Janssen

Suzanne Warner (Plukett), Barbara Schroeter, Judy Kelly, Wendy Hole, Joan Caldow, Margaret Reid, Pam Barron, Ross Jennings

John East, Barry Doyle

Production Managers
Stewart Mathison (Stewart is the longest serving officer with about 18 years as Production Manager), Harry Swinson

Bess Lewer, Margaret and Geoff Walker, Kevin Bennett, Jack Stanesby, Alec McFarlane, Tracy Drayton & Vince Fedelle

Senior Citizens Club members and Armytage Court ladies.

Merryl Hill, Geoff Holland, Pam Barron

Peter Koster, Robyn Janssen, Vivian Swinson, Ricky Budge

Advertising Manager
Mick O'Mara, Graham Miller, Katy Kelly

Laurene Lloyd was involved especially in the article 'of the month'.

The current Star Committee:
President / Editor : Anna Jennings
Vice President / Asst Editor : Theresa Napthine
Copy Manager : Wilma East
Secretary : John Rowley
Treasurer : Trevor Pickering
Chairperson : Edna Groom
Committee Member : Veronica Phillips
Compositor : Ross Jennings
Printer : Merryle Hill
Collators : Senior Citizens Club and Armytage Court Friends
Darkroom Tech : Alan Hards

In conclusion, Theresa Napthine sums up:

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that 'A community is a body of people living in one place or district, a group with common interests, fellowship'. The Winchelsea Star has measured up to this criteria.

Twenty years ago, we, the members of our community, accepted the local paper as part of our lifestyle. We rely on local information for reports of past events, dates of forthcoming events, sporting, academic, cultural activities, births, deaths and marriages etc. All integral facets of a rural town and proud of it. We also claim something better than most country towns, we publish the 'Winchelsea Star' weekly.


PO Box 5, Winchelsea,
VIC 3241, Australia