Sue Hughes

Supervisors: Dr. Dirk H.R. Spennemann and Ross Harvey


Following the discovery of gold in central Victoria in 1851, the formation of new towns gave scope for newspaper enterprises. Often among the earliest activities in pioneering settlements, the nineteenth century press was an active force that served to integrate the people of Victoria into a political and social entity.

While Victorians are heirs to a legacy of cultural resources from the goldrush era, the contribution of the colonial press to Victoria?s heritage has been largely overlooked. In the past, the dependence on nineteenth century newspapers as a source of record has dominated historical narrative. Consequently, the historic structures and artefacts of the goldfields? press are under-represented on Victorian heritage registers, and there has been little systematic collecting or purchasing of historic documents.

In an attempt to correct the imbalance, this research addresses the first phase of cultural resource management: the gathering and analysis of physical and documentary evidence. It investigates the tangible reminders of two representative newspapers from the central Victorian goldfields, Jabez Banfield?s Ararat Advertiser (1857-current) and John Paten?s Avoca Mail (1863-1984). These papers were chosen as case studies for the valuable points of comparison and contrast they offered with regard to their surviving material heritage, and the community?s approach to heritage management.

The study begins with a brief contextual account of the cultures that spawned the Ararat Advertiser and the Avoca Mail and sets the theme of nineteenth century newspaper production in perspective. In the chapters that follow, the main lines of inquiry are physical and intellectual production. Physical production encompasses the place of activity, machinery, tools and other accoutrements of printing. Intellectual production refers to the dwelling places and graves of the proprietors, and the artefacts that endure as reminders of their personal and public lives.

The results suggest that the paucity of research into the cultural heritage of the press has had a direct bearing on community awareness. Case studies confirm that the physical evidence of colonial newspaper production is a diminishing resource. Apportioning the limited available resources between the frequently conflicting interests of economic development and historic conservation is complex. However, as scarce documents perish and history is jettisoned in the wake of development, the task of identifying, protecting and interpreting colonial press heritage can only grow larger with passing time.

This research addresses these issues on both a conceptual and a pragmatic level. It identifies areas for further research in the hope that it might stimulate others to undertake the next two phases of cultural resource management: the assessment of significance, and the development of management policies and strategies. It is time that other landmarks and turning points are investigated so that the colonial press may be brought into the fold of Victoria?s protected heritage.


Publications resulting from this thesis

Hughes, Sue, Spennemann, Dirk HR., Harvey, Ross (in press)
Printing heritage of colonial newspapers in Victoria: the Ararat Advertiser and the Avoca Mail. Bulletin of the Bibliographic Society of Australia and New Zealand
Hughes, Sue, Spennemann, Dirk HR., Harvey, Ross (in press)
Tracing the material culture of the goldfields? press in colonial Victoria. Media History
Hughes, Sue (2003)
A Gazetteer of Newspapers from the Central Victorian Goldfields (1851-1901). Johnstone Centre Report no 198 Albury, N.S.W.: The Johnstone Centre, Charles Sturt University ISBN 1 86467 147 5 [Download]
Hughes, Sue (2003)
Historic Printing Material from the Central Victorian Goldfields: Implications for Cultural Heritage
Management. Johnstone Centre Report n? 194. Albury, N.S.W. : The Johnstone Centre, Charles Sturt University ISBN 1 86467 142 4 [Download]
Hughes, S 2003, 'Fossicking for gold: Thomas McHugh and the Avoca Free Press', Margin: Life and Letters of Early Australia, vol. 59, April, pp. 30-36.
Hughes, S 2003, 'Welsh newspapers in Victoria, 1865-1876', Newsletter: Australian Newspaper History Group, vol. 20, item 20.47
Hughes, S 2003, 'When a paper goes to the dogs', Newsletter: Australian Newspaper History Group, vol. 22, item 22.49.