Volunteer-run community newsletters are providing a method of connection for residents across Ballarat during a time of isolation.
A new group has formed to connect community news publications across Ballarat, allowing them to share ideas, knowledge and experience and strengthen their presence.
The Brown Hill Community Newsletter is one well established publication that continues to play a role in strengthening community identity.
Volunteer editor Sarah Greenwood-Smith said the newsletter was an important break from 'digital noise', especially through COVID times.
"Having a local community newsletter pop in the letterbox once every two months with stories of what is happening in your local area is a really nice and different way to stay in touch," she said.
"It is about connecting the community."
The Brown Hill Community Newsletter is created by a team of seven volunteers that cover editorial, social media, accounts and community directory duties.
It is distributed to Brown Hill letterboxes once every two months by a team of 20 volunteers.
Social media volunteer Kelsie White is new to the Brown Hill Community Newsletter team, after moving to the suburb earlier this year.
It is the one chance to get a connection with everyone, to still hear from your neighbours and people around you about what is happening in the community and not feel so alone during these lonely times.Kelsie White, Brown Hill Community Newsletter volunteer
Ms White moved with her husband to the area from Footscray before lockdown hit and was excited when she received her fist community newsletter in the letterbox.
"One of the things we loved about where we lived in Footscray was the really strong sense of community," she said.
"I really want that and appreciate that wherever I live.
"In the first couple of weeks we moved here the Brown Hill Newsletter landed in my letterbox and I was so excited.
"It was the first chance I had to get to know some people and see what was happening around Brown Hill."
Ms White offered to help with the volunteer social media role after seeing the vacancy advertised in the newsletter, as she has worked in social media for boutique brands in the past.
"I thought I would post a couple of things on Facebook and that would be it, but it has been so lovely," she said.
"Sarah and I check in quite frequently, I probably speak to her at least once a week if not every day sometimes. It is so nice to be able to talk to people who live locally.
"Once you move to somewhere you can see a superficial layer of it, but when you get to know people that live there and really connect to the community, there is so much more."
Ms White said she had been told by many people how excited they they were to receive the most recent issue.
"It is the one chance to get a connection with everyone, to still hear from your neighbours and people around you about what is happening in the community and not feel so alone during these lonely times," she said.
Ms Greenwood-Smith has been involved in the publication since its inception in 2015 through City of Ballarat's engaging communities program.
The first newsletter was produced as a six-page edition in May 2016. It has since expanded to around 20 pages each edition and is self-funded through advertising.
The online hub that publishes the newsletter also features a directory of businesses that are located in or owned by Brown Hill people and a directory of community groups. Both were distributed with print editions earlier this year.
Ms Greenwood-Smith said she was excited to continue strengthening connections in the community and also with other Ballarat community news publications through the new network group.
"The group is bringing the news publications together for people to connect and share right across Ballarat," she said.
Other Ballarat community newspapers include Buninyong, Miners Rest and the new Alfredton and Lucas Newsletter.
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