We don’t usually do an editorial, but this is the last update for the Wombat Post for 2020 so we are making an exception.

It’s now a jarring cliche to say ‘its been a  year like no other’. But then again, looking in the rear view mirror it has been. For many it has been devastating. World wide 74 million cases of COVID, heading for 2 million deaths. In Australia, 28,000 cases and nearly a 1000 deaths.

It is also true that it could have been a lot worse for us locally. Daylesford and Hepburn Springs had no COVID cases and no deaths and there were much worse places to live during COVID. The elimination of COVID in New Zealand, Australia and Victoria in particular (given the major mid year outbreak) has been something of a minor miracle.

This is not to minimise the anxiety and uncertainty COVID has caused many in the local community. The stress of reduced incomes and economic activity, business closures and unemployment has been significant. And of course some of us have had friends and family who have been very sick or died from COVID elsewhere. Europe and the US are a stark reminder of what could have been and what still might be if complacency sets in.

It’s been a tough year for many and the Wombat Post, like many others in the community, is looking forward to a break and a better year for us all in 2021.

Looking back, starting an online publication for Daylesford and Hepburn Springs at the same time as a pandemic was not what the community meeting at the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre had in mind in December 2019, a year ago when the Wombat Post was established.

Unsurprisingly the Editorial Committee has had to cut its cloth to suit the circumstances. The first edition of the Wombat Post was published in March this year just as COVID restrictions were coming into force. That has meant everything, including weekly editorial meetings, interviews, research for stories and contact with local organisations and individuals has been done virtually rather than in person.

It also meant we did not proceed with a print version of the Wombat Post.

The Wombat Post was established to provide ‘a village square’ to inform and engage the local community members on issues and projects they are interested in, and concerned about. Our intention has been to be interesting, accurate, fair and constructive.

During 2o2o the Wombat Post published over 450 news articles, features, creative pieces and photos across a broad range of topics. Each week an editorial committee met (by Zoom) to determine what needed editing, what got published and what should be featured. We had nearly 2000 story visits each week – more than 65,000 so far this year. We now have a healthy weekly local readership, including many local subscribers.

One highlight was the online community forum for Birch Ward candidates we hosted for this year’s local government election. Over 3000 people saw at least part of the forum either live or on video through our Facebook page.

A number of people have contributed regularly to the Wombat Post. These included pieces on the environment, housing, the arts, cooking, music, poetry and the weather. We would like to thank our contributors and particularly Petrus Spronk, Victor Szwed, Taryn Lane, Gordon Nightingale, Vanessa Craven, Mary Faeth Chenery, Marlon Toner-McLachlan, Margaret Hodge and Brenna Quinlan. We also want to thank Lorne Gerlach and Juanita Broderick for helping us to establish the Wombat Post website.

We weren’t always perfect and not everyone agreed with all the editorial committee’s decisions, but overall community reaction has been positive. The Wombat Post is a volunteer effort  and we have been grateful for the encouragement you have provided. And, of course, we are very grateful for the financial support of the Bendigo Community Bank Daylesford district and Hepburn Shire Council.

From this week, the Wombat Post is taking a break to recharge the batteries. We will return fresh and spruced up in the new year, for the Australia Day weekend – although major local stories will run if any happen in the next month.

Next year, we look forward to a greater level of normality – where it is possible to meet with people face to face again. No doubt there will be a number of interesting issues to cover, not the least being the anticipated local roll out of a COVID vaccine.

We are keen to build on the start we made in 2020. We encourage community contributions of news, features and creative pieces. We look forward to working in partnership with community members and organisations.

In the meantime we wish everyone a happy festive season and new year.

The Editorial Committee