The Observer was probably the first local "newspaper" to appear in Ocean Grove. The first issue came out on 15th April, 1958 and cost 3d. The "Overture" read as follows :-
"This is the first edition of the Ocean Grove Observer, and to our knowledge the first time that a bulletin has been edited and published locally by permanent local residents. The Observer is presented in a sincere endeavour to give to residents of Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, news and views and helpful information on a variety of topical subjects, in an interesting manner.
Sports coverage will be to the maximum to that as much detail as possible will be brought to you each Tuesday. Reports and news of Council and Club Meetings and functions will also receive adequate space, and it is our hope that Secretaries will make use of these columns to bring to their members and those interested, news of current and forthcoming activities. We shall also be pleased to attend meetings where our services may be of use. Progress is inevitable, and we earnestly believe that the Observer will help to foster and stimulate interest in local activities and take its place in the service of the Community.
As time goes on we hope to improve the quality of printing, and in the meantime we hope that you will give us your support.
We need hardly say that without the support of local businessmen the production of this bulletin would not be possible. To them we say "Thank You".
If our representative has omitted to call on you, we apologise and will rectify this omission if you will telephone us any evening after 6 p.m. or on Saturday or Sunday.
We hope to receive the comments of our Readers, and where possible and practicable we will introduce articles and reports of interest to them.
If a dog bites a man that is commonplace, but when a man bites a dog that is news, and if it ever happens hereabouts we will let you know."
The Observer was produced weekly and the publisher was P. Johnson, Hodgson St., Ocean Grove. Telephone 205.
Although the first issue stated that the Observer was for Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, it was not until issue No. 24 on 16th September, 1958 that the Banner changed from "Ocean Grove Observer" to "The Observer, Ocean Grove - Barwon Heads".
In Issue No. 75 on 7th September, 1959, the announcement was made of a "Bigger - Better news paper coming soon".
"It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce the coming introduction of a bigger, better and brighter newspaper for the Ocean Grove - Barwon Heads district. The new paper which will be published for the first time on September 22nd will be known as the Coastal Independent and will incorporate the coastal towns of Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads, Torquay and Anglesea."
On 14th September, 1959, Issue No. 76 - the final issue of the Observer (Mark I) appeared.
The Coastal Independent of 22nd September, 1959 was Vol 2. No. 1., "circulating in Anglesea, Torquay, Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove and Surrounding Districts". Like the Observer, it cost 3d. One can only presume that there was a Volume 1 which from the lead story for Vol 2. was probably a smaller "local" paper for Torquay called the Independent.
"The Four Towns - A New Newspaper
The Coastal Independent send greetings to its new readers in Anglesa [sic], to the readers of the former Observer at Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, and to all those people in Torquay who have supported and contributed to the Independent since its inception."
The Coastal Independent continued as a weekly paper until June 1965, however it appears that "locals" felt it wasn't local enough. In September 1962, a new local paper called the Echo was produced - again catering for Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, issued weekly and still costing 3d.
The Echo flourished and eventually expanded to become the newspaper for the whole Bellarine Peninsula - the early history of the Echo has been well documented by its creator, Alix Townsend.
Things seem to go in cycles - obviously the people of Ocean Grove eventually felt that again they needed a true "local" paper. By September 1984, the Ocean Grove Observer (Mark II) was "resurrected" - this time it was provided free to the community and was a monthly publication.
The Observer, published by a volunteer committee, continued to provide local news to the Ocean Grove community for thirteen years until 1997. A second local monthly paper called the Whistler had commenced in December 1996, with "News, Lifestyle and Features from Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads and Wallington". Both publications were available free to the community.
In the June 1997 issue of the Whistler, there was an article titled "The Observer retires for the moment". The article paid tribute to the tireless workers behind the Observer and covered its 13 year history. It closed with ...
"Ray Davey, on behalf of the Ocean Grove Observer Association Inc. thanked the many businesses for their support of The Observer over the past 13 years and said: "In 1984, we set out to fill a void and provide a community newsletter, but we said it was not intended to compete with commercial publications. When The Whistler appeared we felt it was very well done and we weren't going to waste everybody's time and money to stay in the 'field'. At this stage we are going to retire from the 'field', however we will still keep the Association going and from time to time may publish special editions of The Observer if community issues warrant."
And so for almost 40 years, the local community has had a local paper of some description.
The Bellarine Historical Society holds copies of many of these "newspapers" - we hope to expand this collection to ensure that a complete set is preserved for future generations. The current holdings include :-
- Observer (Mark I) - complete set of 76 issues
- Coastal Independent Vol 2. - first 12 issues plus random others
- early Echo - some issues
- Observer (Mark II) - some issues
- Whistler - all issues to date