A Signpost in a Country Town – Jacob Rayment
The Dandenong Ranges draw tourists all throughout the week. In the heart of this area is Emerald, a small town with a huge focus on community, possibly best known for the whistle of Puffing Billy as it chugs through the mountains. When the tourists are gone, the community flourishes. A lot of things can come to mind when thinking about what creates community, but there isn’t much that encompasses the sense of community quite like a local community magazine, a publication designed for the sole purpose of bringing the community closer together.
Signpost is the local community magazine the runs out of Emerald. It’s been in publication for fifteen years and has spent that time working with all the local community groups to carefully connect them to the community. The local sporting groups, church groups, music clubs, play groups, local markets and more are all brought to the attention of the community thanks to Signpost Community Magazine.
Jean Hayne started the magazine in 2000 and continues as the editor in chief to this day. When Signpost Community Magazine was first published it was a small, four page newsletter that was only distributed to a very small portion of central Emerald. Only four issues were released in its first year but it grew quickly. Word of Signpost spread around the local community very quickly and it wasn’t long before people all over the community wanted to get their hands on Signpost.
Speaking to Jean Hayne, she spoke about the challenges that arose with setting up a free publication. At the beginning it had no source of income, it was entirely self-financed and the demand for the magazine started to outweigh what could be afforded. One of the most important parts of Signpost for Jean was keeping Signpost free. It was her way of staying dedicated to the community, her focus was on bringing every single person in the community together and she felt that would be much harder to achieve if people had to start paying to receive the magazine. This lead to the idea of selling advertising space in the magazine in order to both fund the magazine and allow it to reach a broader audience, it was also a way to encourage local businesses and community groups to get involved with the magazine. Adding advertising allowed Signpost to continue for over a hundred issues, a backlog of which can be found here.
Daniel McNeil is a chaplain at one of the local primary schools. He has spent his entire life in Emerald and has grown up reading Signpost. When asked about the effect that he sees Signpost having on the community he was able to offer some insight from the perspective of his school. Signpost was something they could use to advertise school enrolments, inform the public about school events, and communicate many other things with a wide range of people in the community. Daniel was also able to reflect on the impact Signpost Community Magazine had on him as a teenager. He mentioned that he was one of the only teenagers that he knew that was reading Signpost on a regular basis. He mentioned that he really enjoyed the way it kept him engaged and up to date with what was going on in the community and that it was a way he was able join in on different activities and events going on in town and it even helped him discover a youth group full of other teenagers where he was able to make friends his own age. He made a big point about emphasising the credit he gives to Signpost for helping him find a youth group in is high school years.
Signpost Community Magazine is there to help the community and has hundreds of contributors from within the community, everybody from business owners to stay-at-home mums have been able to find a way to contribute to Signpost and write articles for it. Hearing from Rev. Dr. Peter Crawford, a regular contributor in Signpost Community Magazine who has been writing for the publication since its first issue, offered a great view on how Signpost Community Magazine has evolved over the last fifteen years and the effect he’s seen it have on the community over that time. Crawford was the senior pastor of the local Anglican Church in Emerald for most of Signpost’s fifteen year life. He noted that Signpost has been an integral part of Emerald’s community growing into what it is today. He suggests that there wouldn’t such a large amount of community groups and activities if it weren’t for the work that Signpost has put into bringing the community together. Crawford went on to talk about the feedback from people within his church congregation, he mentioned that several of the people in the church had found out about the events at the church through ads in Signpost and that a number of members of the church were trying to find out how they could be contributors to Signpost. Crawford’s connection with Signpost Community magazine has allowed the church to connect with Signpost so much so that they have entered a partnership and the church grounds now contain the Signpost Community Magazine headquarters.
Signpost Community Magazine is showing no signs of slowing down, in fact, they are continuing to grow. Their hundredth magazine was published recently and Jean Hayne asserts that she wants to see Signpost continue on well after two hundred issues. Signpost is definitely a big part of the community in Emerald and, based on what the people of Emerald say about it, it achieves its goals of bringing the community together.