This is a snapshot of some of the history of Rowville as seen through the eyes of the Rowville-Lysterfield Community News. How and why did the News start and how has it and Rowville changed in ten years of unbroken production?

The News arose from the need of the then local resident action group known as the R/LDG (Rowville/Lysterfield Development Group) which had been formed at a public meeting in 1980. The R/LDG was very active at the time on a wide range of local issues such as improving public transport, roads, paths and cycleways, lobbying for educational facilities, providing input to Council on local development issues (which were a hot potato at the time!) such as zoning of residential/commercial/industrial/recreational/conservation areas etc. One of the R/LDG’s ongoing problems was having a two-way communication with the local community about local issues, so that a well-informed and broad cross-section of views was canvassed which was an important matter when lobbying Knox Council and other government authorities.

Initially the R/LDG produced a single page sheet which was circulated as the need arose, but this sheet only included material from the R/LDG. A Council officer (Jeremy McArdle) suggested that we might consider starting a community newsletter that would enable the Group to inform residents of its actions and to allow individuals and other groups to also be in on the act, thereby developing a community spirit which was sadly lacking at that time. Jeremy provided us with a small document outlining the broad objectives and guidelines for community newsletters which the Group adopted and which laid the foundation for the News.

Early Issues

Our first issue consisted of six sides of foolscap with reports from the Rowville Netball Club, Sunday School, Tirhatuan Park Golf Club, Basketball Club, Red Cross, Waverley Golf Club, Apex, Lysterfield Primary School, Nursing Mothers Association of Australia, Christian Cadet Corps, Weight Club and the Society for Growing Australian Native Plants.

There were also three Letters to the Editor, from Doug Western who eventually established the Knox Environment Society, Alisha Donnely who was trying to conserve the small native fish in the swamps next to Tirhatuan Park Golf Club and Don Ockley who promoted the idea of Rowville joining the City of Dandenong. According to Don, the rates would be 37% less, the tips would be much closer, the garbage would be collected regularly and there would also be other benefits such as the heated swimming pool and the library. This issue was raised again at a public meeting in October 1985 called to discuss the idea and again a very intense meeting it was too. The residents voted 30 to 5 against the proposal. It’s very common for residents to be critical of their local Council until it is threatened with amalgamation or dissection!

The R/LDG’s article written by myself as President of the Group included support for conserving Stamford House (now pictured on our masthead); opposition to a minibike track on Corhanwarrabul Creek; future planning for Stud Park Shopping Centre, playgrounds and equipment and a Police Station at the corner of Stud and Ferntree Gully Roads (the location of stations is still a hot potato in Knox!)

Our only paying advertiser was Sandy Sharp who is still supporting the News with her Sandy’s Beauty Clinic ad.

This first issue was typed by Anne Gardner who was Secretary of the R/LDG and the 1,100 copies (6,400 copies now) of the News were duplicated by Group members at the Council Offices. It was decided right there and then that we had to find a less labour-intensive way and since then we have paid for the News to be printed.

The second issue front page had a coloured drawing of a Grey Crowned Babbler provided by naturalist Doug Western. Ted Biddescombe became the first official Editor of the News for the next five issues, after which he had to retire due to changing work locations. By June 1982 (No.7) we had two new Editors, Colin Bradley and Vivienne Crawford. Vivienne became involved when she attended a public meeting called by the R/LDG to broaden the base of support for the News. Vivienne was the only resident to turn up other than R/LDG members! Nevertheless, she joined up and stayed until December 1982 (No.13) – very many thanks Vivienne. Colin Bradley (who lived in Dandenong) found out about the News through a friend who lived in Rowville. Colin took over as sole Editor after Vivienne left. February 1983 (No.14) publicised a public meeting to be held on 14/2/83 at Rowville Primary School to discuss the proposed industrial development to the immediate south and west of Stamford Estate. This meeting was very well attended and residents were quite vocal in opposition to such development. A committee was formed and money was raised to pay a professional planner – one can now see the fruits of their labour.

Council Minutes

During 1982, the News started to include material from Knox Council Minutes which became the forerunner of the much more detailed reports that are printed now which are apparently widely read by residents. The R/LDG believed that the Minutes were of general interest to residents and local newspapers left out most items discussed at Council. Further, if residents were interested or concerned about an item, they could find out more from Council because all items were clearly identified and referenced.

June 1983 (No.18) saw a desperate plea for funds for the News – there was only enough money left for one more issue. We received a State Government (FACS) grant of $400 in 1982, A Knox Council grant of $25 in 1983 and the rest was made up of advertisers and donors. The News also changed appearance from a stapled A4 booklet ranging from six to fourteen pages to an A4 folded broadsheet (unstapled) which was cheaper and much faster to print, but locked us into multiples of eight sides, typically each issue being sixteen pages. By August 1983 (No.20) our public appeal raised $550 which was a lot of money then (this would pay for only a third of one issue’s printing costs now!) August 1983 also saw the start of a series of history articles (Days Gone By) by John Waterhouse of Scoresby High School and the first article was fittingly about the naming of Rowville and included Stamford House.

September 1983 (No.21) was the first issue using a wordprocessor provided by Paul and Margaret Keen. The wordprocessor certainly tidied up the presentation although we still cut and pasted the whole paper, but we had quite a few problems retraining typists who eventually came through with flying colours.

February 1984 (No.25) had a flow chart showing the various stages in the News production. We had 50 distributors delivering to 1,450 letterboxes at a cost of $266 per issue. March 1986 (No.48) had 60 distributors, 2,000 letterboxes and cost $410 per issue.

August 1984 (No.27) saw Council approve of an indoor-outdoor tennis centre on the north east corner of Wellington/Stud Roads – sometimes things move quickly, sometimes not quite so! March 1985 (No.37) announced a $1million programme to extensively improve and upgrade facilities at Lysterfield Lake Park – if you haven’t been there yet, it’s a great place for a picnic, swimming, sailing, walking and lots more.

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch was a major project of the R/LDG and this was initiated in May 1985 (No.39) by gathering petitions in support of the program. Michael Walters (now President of the News) was the principal face behind this program and I’m sure Rowville is very grateful for his outstanding effort in getting the Watch established.

April and May 1986 (Nos.49 and 50) had large articles on the State Government’s ill-fated proposed local government restructure in Victoria. Considering the incredible costs of three tiers of government and a relatively small population, perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea after all, just very badly managed politically! It is interesting to see this issue now resurfacing, especially in our tough economic times. The R/LDG also had major concerns with Knox Council’s use of Corporate Committee for decision making which were closed meetings of Council and minutes were not available to the public. It is of interest to note that under the new Local Government Act, these closed meetings have been significantly curtailed to make decision making a more open democratic process.

5th Birthday

September 1986 (No.54) was our 5th birthday and we celebrated with a 32 page edition with green print highlights – it was such hard work with the additional colour that we did not try it again until December 1990 (two extra colours this time but a lot easier because of the use of computer graphics to do the hard work). This issue reported on a public meeting on 18/8/86 where at least 250 people attempted to crush into the Rowville Primary School’s GP Room to express their concern about the rejection by the Education Ministry of the proposed Post-Primary School for Rowville – we eventually had a win there with our fine Rowville Secondary College! Council Minutes also had some interesting items including the Kelletts Road Shopping Centre, the Lysterfield Lake Park Proposed Recreation Use Plan, the new Local Government Act, the Rowville Post-Primary School and the introduction of the MGB’s (mobile garbage bins).

Colin Bradley

Our long-standing Editor, Colin Bradley, retired as of February 1987 (No.58) after four and a half years. He did a fantastic job developing the News and keeping people like myself on track. One of Colin’s on-going concerns was to see the News run ‘as a business’ and ever so slowly we learned the hard way that this was the only way to go, community newsletter or not.

Relocation of Wannop Chemicals

Council Minutes referred to the relocation of the controversial chemical recycling firm Wannop Chemicals in Kelletts Road, next to Bowens. Wannops had been the site of a truly spectacular fire and explosions (a la Coode Island) and was commonly reported to the E.P.A. and Council for the emissions of unpleasant odour. A pity really, because the firm was doing the environment a favour by recycling waste chemicals.

March 1988 (No.50) saw Peter Douch and Moira McCafferty as Editors and we printed our first edition as a registered newspaper with its very own ISSN number (International Standard Serial Number) and a requirement that we send a copy of each future edition to the State and Commonwealth Libraries for their records. That edition also saw Stamford Park Homestead used on our masthead in recognition of this most significant historical landmark in Rowville. The Local Service Directory was also promoted in the edition and carried six local businesses (we now have 22 entries). Council Minutes referred to the high priority for duplication of Wellington Road in 1989/90 – do I hear lots of sighs from local residents?

Community Centre and Secondary College Get the Green Light

June 1987 (No.62) saw Council select Cunsulere Developments to develop the Stud Park Community Centre. Rowville Secondary College was given the go-ahead by the Education Minister, Ian Cathie, and the Treasurer, Rob Jolly. The College was finally approved after a long battle between parents and Council on one side and the Department on the other.

Our 6th birthday (September 1987, No.65) saw a big improvement in our production technique which made the News easier to read. Moira McCafferty introduced her “Raspberries and Roses” column which was used to inform readers of both good and bad actions in our community.

Financially Independent

Council also withdrew its annual grant to the News which was very painful to us at the time but, in retrospect, was a good thing, as it gave us the added incentive to become financially independent, which the News has been for several years now. Local naturalist, Doug Western, had just launched his book “Melbourne Naturally” which contained articles and drawings on environmental themes in and around Melbourne, including our local area and from which we printed articles in later issues of the News.

Julie Thomas (Editor of the Kids Page) wrote an article about herself and her interests as a Year 8 student at Wheelers Hill High School (October 1987, No.66). Julie had written lots of poems and stories, some of which were included in the News and she was hoping one day to get them published. Thankyou for your creative contribution, Julie.

Plans for the Community Centre (February 1988, No.69) sparked off some community input for design changes and subsequently a public meeting was held on 21st April 1988 to discuss the centre.

Community Directory

March 1988 (No.70) saw a Community Directory which listed 12 sports groups, 23 service/activity/interest groups, 5 religious groups and 5 schools – not bad for a small community the size of Rowville/Lysterfield. We printed an update again in March 1989 (No. 81) which showed an increase in the number of groups. Wellington Road duplication was listed by Council for 1991/1992 at a cost of $3.9 million (do I hear more sighs?)

The first issue of the News under its new management group (Rowville/Lysterfield Community News Incorporated) occurred in July 1988 (No.74) and on 20th July 1988 the former management (Rowville/Lysterfield Development Group Inc.) was sadly wound up at a public meeting due to lack of support for a resident action group. However, the R/LDG Inc. had made a lasting and valued contribution to Rowville/Lysterfield in initiating and managing the News from its inception in September 1981.

Knox Branch Office at Stud Park

Council decided in the August 1988 (No.75) issue to decentralise some of its services and a pilot Branch Office was to be established at Stud Park. Council also sold its site on the corner of Fulham/Stud Roads to McDonalds for $1.5 million.

September 1988 (No.76) saw Council supporting the proposed extension of the East Burwood tram to Knox City and the introduction of a high speed commuter bus network. Council also expressed concern over the State Government decision not to proceed with the Huntingdale to Ferntree Gully Rapid Transit Link. The Link was to pass through Rowville along Kelletts Road, which was to be duplicated and to include a two way tram track down the middle.

Michael Babic provided the News with a middle page spread of photos (December 1988 No.79) showing the changing face of Rowville during 1988 and including Stud Park under construction, Kelletts Road shops, schools, new housing, road construction, playgrounds etc.

Our longest ever report (pages 11-18, February 1989, No.80) on the Rowville Needs Study, provided very interesting comparisons to our situation now. The report resulted from feedback from 280 households, as well as meetings with community support workers. The population of Rowville as at June 1986 was 7,815 people in the family formation years. There were 2,584 children aged 0 – 17 years, which represented one-third of the population.

The main conclusions of the study related to inadequate main roads, lights needed at Stud/Kelletts Roads, more footpaths, better public transport, environmental protection, town planning and the provision of services, community development to establish a social infrastructure, a Neighbourhood House for a community focus and for the needs of a significant number of isolated women, a municipal service centre at Stud Park, more children’s services and better liaison between Council and the community.

Lysterfield Lake Park

Lysterfield Lake Park had its new visitor centre and amphitheatre opened by the Minister Kay Setches and local member Rob Jolly (May 1989, No.83). Other improvements to the 1,150 hectare National Park included a Ranger’s Office, two jetties, new picnic tables, lawns and sealed walking tracks. In addition, Lysterfield Lake Park had been the base for an innovative pilot project involving disadvantaged youth from the Broadmeadows Youth Support Program – the project was so successful it is now about to start its fourth program at the Park and the idea is to be taken up at various other National Parks around the State.

Stud Park Shopping Centre Opens

July 1989 (No.85) promoted the opening of Stud Park Shopping Centre on the 17th July and an exciting and very busy occasion that was for this long-awaited facility. In contrast with the new, our historic Stamford Park Homestead was undergoing renovations and there was a request from Michael Walters for input from the community for ideas on possible uses for Stamford Park.

Rowville Community Centre Opens

The Rowville Community Centre opening was publicised in September 1989 (No.87) with the promise of fine family entertainment, including bands, demonstrations, workshops and sports. Council approved the yet to be built Knox Valley Golf Links which is to surround the west side of the Stamford Estate and the north side of the Industrial Zone along Wellington Road.

The saddest time for the News (October 1989, No.88) was the death of Helen, a treasured News volunteer and the principal person behind the quantum leap in presentation of the News, thanks to Helen’s beloved Macintosh computer. Helen was practically housebound due to a life-long lung disease but it didn’t stop her from doing her utmost for the News and other organisations she was involved with. Helen’s skill development with the computer was terrific, and with the help of her husband, Richard (an Industrial designer), she produced a newspaper which we were very proud of.

Helen died on 11th September 1989 aged 43 years. Thank you Helen, we remember and appreciate you and your efforts. Richard continued the good work for several more issues, but due to work commitments had to give it away. It was then that the computer graphics were handed over to David and Chris Lethaby of Wombat Graphics who have been active supporters of the News. David and Chris have still further improved the presentation of the News and are great people to work with.

November 1989 (No.89) saw a Ward Councillor’s public meeting to discuss and lobby for Police strength in Knox and Rowville and for improved roads in Rowville, particularly the duplication of Wellington Road (do I hear even more sighs?)

Council had been developing a Local Conservation Strategy (August 1990, No.97) which included promotion of recycling, support of special environmental events, requesting feedback from the community and generally encouraging a heightened awareness of conservation and environmental issues.

100th Edition

Our 100th edition (November 1990) was a great milestone for the News and it was also the last edition with Moira McCafferty as Editor as she was moving off into new directions. Moira was Editor for three years and did a great job, particularly in communicating and relating to all those who contributed or were involved with the News. Her witty comments and good humour was appreciated by all. Another valued volunteer, Carol Belcourt, our Treasurer, also departed after four years. Carol transformed our financial affairs into a professionally set up system which was of paramount importance to our long-term survival. Thank you both, Moira and Carol.

Council Minutes referred to the Skilled Drivers Training Course proposed for a site on the Corhanwarrabul Creek Flood Plain, north west of Stamford Park Homestead. This proposal provoked considerable community reaction against the selection of the site and to my knowledge has not yet been finalised.

The News in Colour

December 1990 (No.101) saw our first attempt at two colours (red and green) plus black, which was willingly paid for by our advertisers so that we could produce a different looking News for Christmas. This was pretty hard for our new Editor, Bryan Power, who accepted the challenge and produced a great edition. We liked the colour so much that we decided that black had to go but two or more colours were too expensive and time-consuming, so all blue print was selected and the News has stayed that way since. Community feedback was very positive to the change and gave the News a softer, friendlier image.

Bryan Power, our new Editor and recently retired Vice Principal, immediately made his mark on the News like all those before him. His keen interest in local history and in education has resulted in regular articles of great interest to the local community. Another change made by Bryan which proved very effective, was grouping like articles together, eg.’The Churches’, ‘Sports Round-up’ and ‘School Talk’. Another innovation by Bryan was the ‘Congratulations’ column which recognised the special achievements of members of the community.

Wellington Road … Again!

Wellington Road became Monash Highway and Stud Road became Dandenong Valley Highway (March 1991, No.103) but still with no duplication of Wellington Road in sight (more sighs!)

April 1991 (No.104) had a special eight page lift-out supplement on Youth Services in Rowville/Lysterfield and Stamford Park Homestead was opened to the public during Heritage Week. The proposed management plan for the Dandenong Police Paddocks Reserve was printed and outlined the recreation and conservation objectives for this significant tract of land.

The very long-awaited Scout Hall (nearly 20 years) was opened on 28th July 1991. The Hall is on the public reserve opposite St Simons Primary School between Taylors Lane and Turramurra Drive.

August 1991 (No.108) saw a major change of direction by the State Government to turn around the current housing trends in the Metropolitan Area in order to facilitate implementation of the adopted Urban Consolidation Policy. The purpose is to reduce the outward expansion of Melbourne, to make more efficient use of infrastructure and services and to generally increase the density of residential lots.

Ten Years Old

The News’ 10th birthday was celebrated in September 1991 (No.109) – who said it couldn’t be done? We received a number of congratulatory messages, including an article from the Mayor and Mayoress, John and Margaret Raymond. It must be said that the News reached this milestone only through the efforts of about 200 individuals and families making their contribution both to the News and to the local community. No matter how large or small the effort has been, it has truly been a great team effort and on behalf of all those involved, I sincerely thank each and every one of you for a job well done.

Here’s to the next ten years!