Historian Dr Ian Willis is presenting a conference paper on the role local newspapers of the Picton, Camden and Campbelltown area during the First World War. He will show how these small provincial newspapers acted as an archive for the stories from the First World War on the homefront. Community wartime activities will be placed in the context of the international setting of the war.
Small rural communities are an often overlooked part of the wartime landscape of the First World War at home. Local newspapers, or community newspapers, recorded ‘the doings’ of their communities in inordinate detail. Their reportage extended from the local to the provincial and the international by owner/editors who were local identities.
Country newspapers provide an archive record of the First World War that is identifiably different from the large metropolitan daily newspapers of the war period. The local newspaper has a number of differences that are related to their localness and parochialism, their relationship to their readership, their promotion of the community and their approach to the news of the war.
The local newspaper recorded the subtleties of local patriotism and wartime voluntarism and fundraising, the personal in soldier’s letters, the progress of the war and a host of other issues. For the astute researcher country newspapers provide glimpses into wartime issues around gender, class, sectarianism, and other aspects of rural life. All coloured by local sensibilities and personalities. The local newspaper was a mirror to its community and central to the construction of place making and community identity in small towns, villages and hamlets.
These characteristics are not unique to rural Australia and are shared by rural and regional newspapers of other English speaking countries. Recent developments in archival research like Trove provide invaluable access to these resources across Australia. Country newspapers provide a different story of the war at home from an often forgotten sector of society.
The local newspapers that will be used as a case study for this conference paper include:
The Camden News
The Picton Post
The Campbelltown Herald
Local and provincial newspapers are an understudied area of the First World War and this conference paper will address this gap in the historical literature.
Learn moreabout local newspapers in the Macarthur region and elsewhere:
Local historian and author Dr Ian Willis has had a proposal accepted for an article in Media History, an international media journal published in the UK.
The article outlines the history of local newspapers in the Macarthur region and covers the towns of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton.
Local newspapers were rationalised, corporatised and consolidated from the 1950s as Sydney’s urban growth moved into the region.
By the late 20th century changes in technology and innovations set in as the local newspapers were re-shaped by the growth and arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe.
The article will show that is recent times digital disruption has taken a toll, but there are green shoots with new mastheads appearing in some of the new suburbs in the region.
Media History is an international academic journal published in the UK. Its website states that:
Media Historyis an interdisciplinary journal which welcomes contributions addressing media and society from the fifteenth century to the present. Its perspective is both historical and international. It explores all forms of serial publication in manuscript, print and electronic media and encourages work which crosses the boundaries of politics, culture and communications.
Abstract for journal article in Media History (UK)
Provincial and regional newspapers have been defined by parochialism and localism. They have pandered to local sensibilities and a need to serve their community. Some have argued that local newspapers are a subset of their cultural environment, a form of structural functionalism. For others regional newspapers play a part in placemaking and community identity. The stories they carry are critical to the memory making. They act as a mirror to the values and attitudes of the local community.
This article will test these propositions and others by an examination of a number of regional newspapers that have been published in the Macarthur region of New South Wales. The discussion will analyse the historical continuity and change in the landscape of the area’s regional press and the actors who were part of it.
Colonial newspapers appeared in the late 19th century in the three market towns within the region at Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. The local press reflected the nature of the settler society and mirrored the British provincial press in these small rural outposts of the British Empire. By the early-20th century the Campbelltown News, the Camden News and the Picton Post, were the face of these thriving communities. During the Interwar period this trio were joined by the Camden Advertiser.
The forces of war and depression influenced the regional press as it did local communities. Nostalgia, the doings of local politicians, and the tension between profit making and journalism have all played a part in this story, while the inverted pyramid arrived mid-century.
Corporatisation, consolidation and rationalisation re-shaped the regional press with the arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe in the 1950s. Competition from radio, new technology and innovations brought more changes and by the 21st century digital disruption was in full swing.
The owners of the Macarthur regional press were local identities and opinion leaders. Their editorial positions reflected their political allegiances. They encouraged patriotic loyalty in wartime and the war at home. Editor owners practiced a type of censorship and their silence around a number of social issues was deafening. Their publications re-enforced the status quo, and existing social divisions, cultural norms, while acting as a form of regional voice.
As technology and local demographics have changed so have the nature of Macarthur regional press. Where once black and white newspaper were sold for pennies there are now colourful free publications, and circulations which are still a guide to the sphere of influence of the local newspaper. While in recent times some of the highest rates urban growth in Australia have encouraged green shoots with the appearance of new mastheads in the form of newsletter newspapers.
In the Oran Park Gazette Lisa Finn-Powell maintains that the community newspaper does have a future. She argues that it provides a way for members of the community to support each other by celebrating local events, anniversaries and traditions. Local newspapers make people feel good about their neighbourhood.
…this post introduces PHA NSW and ACT member, Ian Willis’ blog, Camden History Notes. Camden is a town southwest of Sydney, situated on land belonging to the Dharawal (Tharawal) people.
Ian’s blog presents stories about the district’s people, its history, heritage and traditions. He draws on the memories and experiences of local families, local identities, community organisations and local institutions.
The Macarthur region is an area made of the Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government areas and is a formal region with an arbitrary political boundary. Regions come in all shapes and sizes from formal regions with definite boundaries, to geographic regions based on landform types, to regions of the imagination with no real boundaries at all. They are a useful tool to examine communities, and despite falling out of favour with some, still have a place in the popular imagination and provide a useful analytical tool.
Origins of the Macarthur region
The first official use of the term Macarthur as a regional place-name was the proclamation of the new Federal seat of Macarthur in 1949 after the 1948 re-distribution and the Federal House of Representatives was increased from 75 to 122 members. The new seat of Macarthur was named after the colonial wool pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur of Camden Park, which according to a recent heritage report from TKD Architects ‘is the most important surviving early colonial estate in Australia and ranks amongst the most historic houses in Australia’. The original land grant to John Macarthur in 1805 took place on the Nepean River floodplain and eventually the familiy’s colonial estate of Camden Park covered parts of what is now the Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly LGAs.
Commercialisation of the Macarthur region
The use of the Macarthur place-name got a leg up in 1958 when local media baron Sydney Richardson felt that local regionalism provided a great business opportunity. There were enough unifying characteristics across the three country towns of Camden, Campbelltown and Picton, he thought, that justified launching a new regional newspaper using the Macarthur masthead. He re-named the Camden Advertiser, a free Camden weekly newspaper he took over from Ken Gibson in 1955, as the Macarthur Advertiser. Richardson had two competing newspapers – the Camden News and the Camden Advertiser – in the same Camden market place. He had previously purchased both the Camden News and Campbelltown News from the Sidman brothers in 1952. Richardson promoted the Macarthur Advertiser as a free regional newspaper and expanded its circulation to included Campbelltown and Picton. The newspaper had a broad regional compilation of news and advertisements from the three towns and he ‘forged and popularized a new regional name for Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly’.
In 1982 Richardson merged the Macarthur Advertiser with other local newspapers – Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, Camden News and Picton Post – which he had previously sold to Suburban Publications, a joint venture between John Fairfax and Sons and Australian Consolidated Press, in 1969.  Richardson’s new regional newspaper prospered and was a builder of community and identity by being a regional voice and notice board for the first time, and in the process strengthened people’s attachment to the concept of a regional identity.
Town planners and administrators strengthened the official support for the use of the Macarthur place-name in 1975 with the establishment of the Macarthur Development Board, with its head office in Campbelltown’s heritage precinct. Peter Kacirek, the chairman of the Sydney SW Sector Planning and Development Board, renamed it as the Macarthur Development Board, against much local opposition. Local residents felt that the legacy of Governor Lachlan Macquarie was affronted, by those who proclaimed the town in 1820.
The purpose of the Macarthur Development Board was to implement the 1973 New Cities Structure Plan for Campbelltown, Camden and Appin as part of the 1968 Sydney Regional Outline Plan. The New Cities Plan called for the development of the Macarthur growth centre, located away from the Campbelltown central business district in Queen Street. The aim of the Macarthur Development Board was to ‘plan, co-ordinated implement’ the New Cities Plan with power to compulsory acquisition of land. Town planner James Deane, from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, felt that the name Campbelltown should be completely abolished and replaced with the City of Macarthur. The New Cities Plan incorporated the colonial story of the Macarthur family and Camden Park and felt that the Macarthur legacy was essential to the identity of the new growth centre. The board stated in 1976 that ‘the area of Macarthur is steeped in rich tradition and much of the early history of New South Wales was recorded here. The aim of the Board it to link the historic past with an exciting and vigorous future and to plan for the enjoyment and benefit of all members of the community’. Unfortunately the Macarthur family felt otherwise and sold most of the pastoral property to housing developers in 1973 against a national outcry.
To the disappointment of many the Macarthur growth centre was a short lived town planner’s pipe-dream. The new regional centre was planned to have high-rise office blocks, conference facilities, sports stadiums, transport interchange and become a city within a city and to be located on Campbelltown Golf Course (1971), which was acquired against significant local opposition. There was some progress within the growth centre precinct with the construction of Macarthur Square (1979), Macarthur Railway Station (1985), the Macarthur Institute of Higher Education (1983) and the launch of a new Macarthur community radio station 2CT (1978) yet the new TAFE college (1981) and hospital (1977) both carried the place-name Campbelltown, not Macarthur. The Federal Whitlam government promised funding of $25 million in 1975, which was slashed in 1976 to $2 million dollars by the incoming Fraser Government but by 1978 all funding had dried up. Open hostilities broke out between Campbelltown City Council and Macarthur Development Board over the ‘regional centre’ in 1979 when the Wran state government approved the construction of Macarthur Square funded by State Super. The Macarthur Development Board continued to foster the regional centre over Campbelltown’s Queen Street precinct as the retail and community hub in 1980, and by 1984 the Board was $200 million in debt. Peter Kacirek was sacked and Ian Henry, former Campbelltown council planner, was appointed by the state government. In 1985 the regional centre was slashed by Wran Labor state government and the Board was stripped of planning power and restructured to Macarthur Development Corporation, which was a small promotion unit. Ian Henry stated that the Macarthur Development Board was ‘an over-expanded planner’s dream turned nightmare’ and in 1989 the MDC restructured and renamed Business Land Group, which was little more that a sales unit. The Macarthur growth centre road crash had been driven up onto the rocks of divisiveness by the state government’s push of large scale public housing into the Campbelltown area, the development of the ‘ugly Campbelltown’ stereotype and the moral panic that ensued.
With the failure of the Macarthur growth centre another official attempt at developing Macarthur regionalism occurred in 1986. The Hawke Federal Government played a role in development of Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCs) through the Federal Government’s Office of Local Government and its Local Government Development Program. It came out of the Hawke government’s conviction that local authorities could make a positive contribution to the Commonwealth’s national economic reform strategy. The Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly LGAs came together in 1986 as MACROC, the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils with its headquarters in Campbelltown. MACROC’s charter states that its aim is to ‘promote a regional approach to issues’ and to develop ‘regional facilitation, planning and coordination’, to promote ‘a regional economic growth strategy’ and ‘provide a voice for regional issues’. MACROC has had mixed success, and while some accuse it of being a talkfest, its presence has supported Macarthur regionalism. MACROC spokesperson Christine Winning defends its role as in regional advocacy and states that has a achieved a number of outcomes of regional importance in the areas of job creation, economic growth, education, small business, local government, environment and tourism since its foundation.
Over the years Macarthur regionalism has had mixed support by the local business and community voluntary organizations. A survey of telephone listings of local businesses in 2011 indicated that only 156 business listings used the term Macarthur in their business name, for example, Macarthur Tavern, Macarthur Camera House and of these 61 businesses were located in Campbelltown, while the remainder were located in other local suburbs. On the other hand the traditional names of the country towns of Camden, Campbelltown and Picton were the preferred option for business names with 134 had Camden in their business name, while 140 used Campbelltown in their business name, for example, Camden Towing Services and Campbelltown Car Detailing. A search of the 2014 Wollondilly Business Directory reveals that 24 businesses have used the Picton place-name, while at a district level even the Telstra telephone listings were located in the 2013 Campbelltown Telephone Directory which included Camden and Picton.
Amongst local businesses there are some prominent and enthusiastic supporters of Macarthur regionalism as a coherent market place and branding that has a distinctive identity. Most notably In Macarthur lifestyle magazine publisher David Everett who has stated that his support for Macarthur regionalism for his business ‘seemed obvious and wasn’t really a decision’. Everett’s quarterly magazine started in 1999, has a print run of 20,000, is published in Campbelltown and is distributed throughout the three LGAs at points in Macarthur Square, Campbelltown, Camden, Narellan, Mt Annan, and Picton. Everett feels that Macarthur is a different geographic region to Sydney’s south west, ‘is culturally quite different’ and has ‘a sense of community’, which he maintains is ‘quite rare in the rest of Sydney’. He states that there is ‘a distinct region [which] feels like a region’ and the ‘name describes quite an organic community’ across all three LGAs. Amongst other local businesses that use the regional branding is the Macarthur Credit Union, which adopted the Macarthur name in 1978. The credit union wanted to extend its brand and grow its customer base and changed it name in 1978 from the Clutha Employees Credit Union, which was established in 1971, to the Macarthur Mutual Credit Union and extended membership to the local community. It then progressively established branches across the region starting with Picton in 1979, Camden 1979, Narellan 1990, Tahmoor 1994. It changed its name in 1994 to Macarthur Credit Union and started a mobile service at Oran Park.
Local media outlets are prominent supporters of Macarthur regionalism including Community radio station 2MCR, which started operations on the 1989 and promotes itself as “Heart of Macarthur”. It was the first radio station aimed at broadcasting to the Macarthur region, are staffed and operated entirely by volunteers and broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The local commercial radio state C91.3, which has been on air since 2001, uses a call sign 2MAC and the slogan ‘Macarthur First’. It has a limited broadcast area of the major centres of Campbelltown and Camden under Federal Government broadcast regulations and is owned by WIN Corporation. The local print media have been supporters of Macarthur regionalism for decades, although in recent years have responded to the resurgence of localism under the influence of globalization by re-establishing local editions of Macarthur regional newspaper titles (mentioned earlier).
The voluntary sector has had a role to play in promoting Macarthur regionalism through the establishment of the Macarthur Country Tourist Association in 1978. The association had the supported of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Liverpool councils, although it collapsed in 1994 after Wollondilly Shire withdrew support. In 1996 after the collapse of the association, Camden Council set up the Camden Interim Tourist Committee and continued to operate independently from Oxley Cottage in Narellan. In 2008 Camden and Campbelltown LGAs started a joint tourism project as part of the Macarthur Tourism Action Plan which was marketed as Destination Macarthur, and was influenced by Tourism New South Wales’s Destination Development Program and the 2007 Griffith Local Government and Shires Association Tourism Conference which used the theme Tourism – An Investment.
The community voluntary sector has a mixed response for its support of Macarthur regionalism. An examination of the 2005 Camden Community Directory only has 53 voluntary organizations that used Macarthur in their title, out a total listing of 380 entries. One current regional organization is the Macarthur Community Forum, which is an inter-agency organization which was incorporated in 2000 and changed its name to Sector Connect in 2008. It covers the four local government areas of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee and acts a peak organization for the not-for-profit sector across the LGAs. The organization operates Volunteering Macarthur and acts as an agency for other government related services including Macarthur Youth Services Network and MacUnity. Other regional voluntary organizations range from the Macarthur Rural Fire Service to regional sporting organizations including Macarthur District Soccer Football Association and Macarthur Basketball Association, while 2013 saw the birth of Quota International of Macarthur after the demise of the Camden Quota Club.
Conclusion and challenges
Macarthur regionalism in the communities of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton has had a mixed history with government, business and the voluntary sector. While business has identified Macarthur as a separate market place it is yet to be fully developed, and the voluntary sector is still very localised. The Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Local Government Areas do acknowledge the Macarthur story particularly in their tourism promotions, yet little elsewhere.
Macarthur regionalism has not been fully embraced by each of the former country towns of Camden, Campbelltown and Picton. They were all once small closed rural communities with their own sense of place. Each community had a natural distinctiveness that has contributed to their identity and parochialism that tends to work against regionalism.
The most important unifying theme between Campbelltown, Camden and Picton today is their peri-urban location, on the city’s rural-urban fringe. This location fosters Macarthur regionalism as Sydney’s urban growth threatens re-shape place in these communities.
 TKD Architects, Managing the Future of Camden Park, Menangle, New South Wales, Camden Park Preservation Committee, Camden, 2014.
 ‘Mr Syd Richardson board chairman’, Camden News, 26, 27 & 28 August 1969. Jeff McGill, ‘Local history caught by newspaper Webb’, Camden Advertiser 2 March 2005. ‘From Camden Advertiser to Macarthur Advertiser’, Wollondilly Advertiser 10 February 2010.
 James Deane, ‘Roles in Response to Change’, Royal Australian Planning Institute Journal, January 1974, vol 12 no 1, p.35.
 Macarthur Development Board, New Cities With History, Promotional brochure, Campbelltown, 1976.
 Ian Willis, ‘Townies, ex-urbanites and aesthetics: issues of identity on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe’, AQ – Australian Quarterly, Vol 83, Issue 2, (Apr/June 2012).
 Jeff McGill, Campbelltown, A Modern History, 1960-1999, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown, 1999, p. 29.
 Neil Marshall, Brian Dollery, & Angus Witherby, ‘Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCS): The Emergence of Network Governance in Metropolitan and Rural Australia?’, Australasian Journal of Regional Studies, Vol 9, No. 2, 2003, pp. 169-188.
Camden News 16 August 1978. Betty Yewen, Interview, Camden, 9 April 2014. Betty was the former secretary of the association for a number of years. Pam Down, Macarthur Country Tourist Association, Correspondence, 26 November 1994.
 Camden Interim Tourist Committee, Minutes, 26 June 1996.