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William Whitridge wrote in the 1851 prospectus for his Austral examiner newspaper, that 'the grand distinctive feature of the Examiner will be this:- It will invariably recognise the paramount claims of religion as the highest human interest. ... determined resistance will be offered to every effort to fetter it by state control, or pauperise it by state subsidies.' Although the Examiner was not a religious newspaper as such, it was founded at least in part to provide a strong voice of protest against the continuation of government-funded grants to religious bodies. At the same time conservative local members of the Anglican Church were actively seeking to have the subsidies retained, and voicing their opinions through the pages of another newspaper, Andrew Murray's Adelaide morning chronicle. In the event the short-lived religious subsidy was voted out by members of South Australia's first Legislative Council in 1851.

South Australia's first purely religious newspaper appeared in 1845. Titled Australiana, the newspaper was apparently founded by a shadowy clergyman named Milne and later taken over by Marcus Collisson. It was printed by the prolific George Dehane. Only three issues of the newspaper are held by the State Library. Much of the content of these issues consists of tirades against Roman Catholicism. In particular Australiana blasted a series of interviews with the Adelaide Archbishop, Francis Murphy, published by the South Australian register, who were equally damned in the eyes of the editor of Australiana for having printed the articles.

Australiana was followed in 1858 by Henry Hussey's Christian advocate and southern observer. Hussey had learned the printing trade from George Dehane and subsequently became a convert to the Church of Christ. In his newspaper Hussey initiated lively debate over the beliefs of the local Unitarians and Swedenborgians by publishing excerpts from the sermons of the Rev. JC Woods (Unitarian) and selections from Swedenborgian texts. Hussey's aim was to show that the beliefs of these two religions did not measure up against his own conservative Christianity, as he unashamedly stated in his published reminiscences. The Swedenborgians were particularly annoyed by his actions as texts which were not aimed at distribution outside of their own faith were published in the Christian advocate.

In 1869 George Fife Angas sponsored the founding of the Protestant advocate and family newspaper under publisher James Heath Lewis. Angas, the well-known Colonization Commissioner, philanthropist and Baptist, also had a particular axe to grind, and in this instance it was again anti-Roman Catholicism - the religion in fact of his eldest son's wife. The newspaper ceased at the end of 1875. Ironically, the office and plant of the Protestant advocate were taken over by a Catholic newspaper.

A longer running religious newspaper, and one offering a more general coverage, was founded in 1878 by the pastor of the Hindmarsh Congregational Church, the Rev. John McEwin. The Christian colonist's long run suggests the newspaper's obvious appeal. Initially McEwin ran the weekly Christian colonist as a side-line to his parish ministry, however after 12 years he found that he was forced to devote himself to the newspaper on a  full-time basis. The Christian Colonist took a broad approach not only to Christianity, albeit 'evangelical Christianity' as the paper itself stated, but also responded actively to the so-called 'social gospel'. During its time the newspaper vocally supported many broader issues of the day, including the temperance movement, social purity, women's suffrage, the working-men's blocks scheme, and Bible reading in schools. The Christian colonist spoke out against state aid to religion and the British opium trade with China. After McEwin's death in 1894, unable to find a local buyer, the newspaper was absorbed by the national religious newspaper, the Australian Christian world.

In 1900 the eccentric lawyer, Paris Nesbit, founded Century, a religious newspaper which particularly espoused the 'New Thought' and Theosophist beliefs held by Nesbit and his sister, Agnes Benham. They also strongly supported socialism and particular issues such as divorce law reform. Under the new title Morning, and the editorship of John Newton Wood from 1901, the newspaper took a keen interest in spiritualism and vegetarianism, and developed links with the local New Church (Swedenborgian) congregation and its preachers. Throughout its life the newspaper combined religion with social issues, strongly opposing moves towards a 'White Australia.'

The earliest denominational religious magazine published in South Australia was the Anglican Church intelligencer which had a short life between 1851 and 1852. This small journal, like the Adelaide morning chronicle, voiced strong support for government religious subsidies, in lengthy articles and reports. The Church intelligencer consisted largely of reports of church activities and suggestions for Sunday School lessons. An interesting side issue was an apparent interest in the conversion of Jews to Christianity. The magazine was followed, a few years later, by a more ambitious Anglican journal, the Church chronicle, which operated for eight years from 1859.

In 1863 the South Australian Primitive Methodist record appeared, reflecting the strong Methodist presence in the colony. A year later the Wesleyans began their Circuit magazine and in 1867 the South Australian Bible Christian magazine was founded. In 1900 these three churches combined to form the Methodist Church and from 1901 produced a new joint newspaper, the Australian Christian Commonwealth. Through various name changes the newspaper has been published continuously ever since. It is currently published by the South Australian Synod of the Uniting Church as New times.

The Catholic Church in South Australia has a publishing record second only to this, beginning with its first version of the Southern cross in 1867. Fr Julian Tenison Woods, having been sub-editor of the Adelaide times before training as a priest, was the first editor. The Rev. Francis Reynolds was sub-editor. In 1869 the Southern cross apparently combined with James Hennessey's Irish harp and farmers' journal newspaper. Later the Irish harp also subsumed the short-lived Catholic herald. The Harp particularly included news from Ireland, something which had been desired by local Irish Catholics for some time. From 1870, under the editorship of Benjamin Hoare, the newspaper became more outspoken about contentious local issues. This was a stance continued during 1871 by the new editor/proprietor, Charles Fox. Fox openly criticised Bishop Shiell and supported Mary MacKillop at a time when her order was under attack from various sides. At the same time he maintained a running feud with the Observer editor over religious matters. The Harp folded in 1873 and various short-lived Catholic journals came and went until 1889. In that year Francis Reynolds, by then Bishop of Adelaide, set up a company to publish a new Southern cross. The children's column under 'Aunt Eily' (Mrs AM Ryan) was said to be the first of its type in a Catholic newspaper in Australia. The newspaper has been printed ever since, in varying titles and formats. Since 1997 it has returned to its original title.

In 1868 both the local Baptists and the members of the Church of Christ began publishing journals - Truth and progress, and Australian Christian pioneer respectively. Members of the Congregational Church published the South Australian independent from 1870, and the Free Presbyterian was published by the Presbyterian Church from 1875. The Lutheran Church was closely allied with the German language press, and religious supplements were published in the Barossa Valley newspapers from the middle of the 19th century.

In the early 20th century various other religious bodies published journals, notably the Christadelphians. The Jewish community, being much smaller than its eastern states counterparts, had no locally produced newspaper, but produced the short lived Yarchon magazine between 1949 and 1950. Increasingly, individual churches and religious groups produced in-house magazines and newsletters. State-level denominational magazines and newspapers came largely to concentrate on more parochial subjects.

The mainstream press has always included some coverage of religious topics. In the 1870s it was in defence of Mary MacKillop and her Sisters of St Joseph at a time when they were under attack. In the early 21st century it was condemnation of Anglican Archbishop Ian George's handling of reported pedophilia incidents in Anglican churches and schools. In between there were reports of the first women missionaries leaving for India, attacks on Lutheran churches during the First World War, the establishment of the Festival of Light movement, the banning of Hare Krishnas from singing and begging in Rundle Mall, the ordination of women, and the recent dispute between the orthodox Rabbi and his congregation. The opening of new churches and religious centres, reports of activities and ceremonies, and the doings of religious people throughout the state have also been reported on by the mainstream press.

Hussey, Henry. More than half a century of colonial life and Christian experience: with notes of travel, lectures, publications, etc., Adelaide, S. Aust.: Hussey and Gillingham, 1897

Marquis, Len. South Australian newspapers: a selection of material from the extensive research notes gathered for a proposed history of the press in South Australia by Leonard Stanley Marquis/ prepared by Ronald Parsons, Lobethal, S. Aust.: Ronald Parsons, 1998

'The Colonial press', Royal South Australian almanack and general directory for 1847, Adelaide, S. Aust.: J. Allen, 1847, pp. 49-52


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