Canterbury Bankstown Torch’s 100th Birthday

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (10:18): A 100th birthday is a pretty special thing, and tomorrow there is a very special 100th birthday in my local community: the Bankstown Torch newspaper is turning 100. While other newspapers across the country are dying off, the Bankstown Torch is still going strong. It’s loved by my local community. It’s how they get their local news. It’s now the only local newspaper in the local community.

The Torch was started 100 years ago by a man named Les Engisch, and today, a hundred years on, it’s still owned and run by Les’s family. Les’s grandson, John Engisch, is the owner and managing director, and his great-grandsons, Trent and Christian Engisch, are the General Manager and Projects Director. Their aunty, Pam, is also a part of the team. It’s a family business, and, like most family businesses, the people who work there are also considered part of the family. Mark Kirkland, the editor of the newspaper, has been there and been the editor for 26 years. Kim Cohen, the project manager, has been there even longer. He’s been there for more 30 years.

The Torch is also part of the bigger Bankstown family. It’s part of the story of the community I’m so proud to represent in this place. It’s covered every major event in town over the last 100 years, from the visit of the Queen 40 years ago in 1980 and the burning down of the council to the elevation of a Bankstown boy to become the Prime Minister of Australia. In April 1955, 65 years ago, the Torch made the news itself when the building where the Torch was published was firebombed and blown up. The rumours, at the time, were that it was done by the competition, the Bankstown Observer. It was never proven, but the next month the editor of the Bankstown Observer and a journalist from that newspaper were imprisoned for three months by this parliament for a breach of parliamentary privilege for trying to influence and intimidate the local MP Charles Morgan. As we all know, the media would never try to influence or intimidate a member of parliament, and that’s why this has never, ever happened again.

The Bankstown Observer is now long gone, but the Torch has never gone out, or at least not for long. Over the last few months they had to shut briefly because of COVID-19, but now they’re back; they’ve been publishing again for the last three weeks. Hopefully, they’ll keep going for a long time to come, because the Torch and the Engisch family are as much a part of Bankstown as Paul Keating or Steve Waugh or Bryan Brown and they’ve been around for much, much longer. Hopefully they’ll be around for a lot longer to come, because there are plenty more stories to tell.