I rise today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the great local institutions in my electorate, The Village Observer newspaper. The Village Observer is a much-loved local publication that serves residents living in the municipalities of Lane Cove and Hunters Hill and parts of Willoughby. A combination of local newspaper and magazine, it plays a central role in connecting residents within our community.
But there is something special about the Observer. During a dynamic 25 years in the national and international media landscape, The Village Observer has been a constant force. It is a true testament to the enduring strength of The Village Observer that in a digital age it is still going strong.
The Village Observer was established in 1993 by Ian Longbottom, to fulfil the need for a local news publication. In 1993 there was no email. Ian would drive around town picking up photos and disks containing copy from contributors. Other contributors would fax handwritten articles to Ian, and then he would retype them for publication. And I suspect that it was primarily delivered to residents by members of the Longbottom family—often involuntarily, I suspect! The Village Observer was purchased in 2010 by the Lane Cove Community Aid Foundation.
Funds raised by The Village Observer now support financial assistance to aged-care and disability services run by Sydney Community Services, which has its home in Lane Cove. With modern publishing tools, The Village Observer has evolved into a high-quality journal under the current outstanding editorship of Jocelyn Biddle. Its distribution extends to 20,000 houses, and businesses in Lane Cove, Lane Cove West, Lane Cove North, Osborne Park, Riverview, Longueville, Northwood, Greenwich, Hunters Hill, Linley Point, Woolwich and parts of St Leonards. In total, it reaches 50,000 residents, 11,500 families and something like 6,300 local businesses. Every month, in almost 50 pages of colour, The Village Observer brings together and tells the stories of an important and strong community.
Despite its title, The Village Observer does much more than simply observe. It builds, promotes and celebrates our community. It encourages those who live in this vibrant area of Sydney to be our best and to try new things. It educates and it informs. In a world where people can feel more disconnected from their own areas, The Village Observer is a voice that tells of amazing neighbours who do extraordinary things, both small and large, for their fellow citizens. The Village Observer in its promotion of all the amazing opportunities that exist in our local area helps foster a sense of community that gives residents not only an important sense of place but an important sense of self.
The Village Observer is also an important avenue for expression. It promotes and encourages the thriving local arts community and champions creativity. Examples include showcasing resident artists, providing a page where schoolchildren can publish their efforts in narrative writing exercises, and promoting ceramic and painting courses and so much more that is found in the Lane Cove community.
I also pay tribute to the vitally important role The Village Observer plays in keeping the community abreast of public policy matters and initiatives. There are regular articles asking for public comment on important local initiatives and public announcements about the work of government—local, state and federal. The Village Observer also does much in terms of promoting healthy lifestyles. The articles that appear in the health section assist people in staying up to date with the latest thinking on how to manage their health, fitness and wellbeing.
Last but not least, The Village Observer supports local business, the lifeblood of commerce and employment in our local communities. Whether it be through providing a widely read local platform for a new restaurant to promote their arrival or the promotion of local services, The Village Observer helps those local businesses that add so much to the vibrancy of our community.
The nature of local newspapers across Sydney is changing. They have been joined by online publications. In our area, for example, the digital service In The Cove is an example of this type of development. Yet my view is that there will always be a place, arguably a more important one, for publications like The Village Observer. I want to congratulate The Village Observer on remaining a vital part of the community, as it has for the last quarter of a century. May you go from strength to strength in the years ahead. I’m sure you will.