The Barnet family published the Bunyip newspaper at Gawler, 40 kilometres north of Adelaide, for 139 years from 5 September 1863. When the family sold the paper on 31 March 2003, only the Weston family of the NSW Kiama Independent had a longer record of control as Australian newspaper founders.
The Bunyip began as an eccentric monthly quarto-sized satirical pamphlet with content provided by the Gawler Humbug Society. The printer and part-owner was William Barnet (1834–95), who had served a printing apprenticeship in his home town of Kinross, Scotland. He migrated to South Australia and established a printery and stationer’s shop at Gawler in 1857. In 1861 at Blackwood, he married Hannah Burfield, who was fresh from boarding school but showed a maturity beyond her years in assisting William in the printing business. They had six sons and four daughters.
Four months after the Bunyip’s launch, Barnet turned to traditional news content as the staple for his columns. The paper continued as a monthly in 1864, but appeared twice a month in 1865 and weekly (as a broadsheet) from 1866. Barnet fought off three competitors between 1869 and 1885, absorbing two of them. Hannah Barnet (1843–1921) took the proprietorial reins when William died. Son Robert Henry (1868–1917), who had started working at the paper at 13, managed the business and became the printer. Another son, Frank Lindley (1875–1941), turned his back on a mining career to become the Bunyip’s accountant, and a daughter, Emily Margaret Mercury (1865–1925), ran the stationery department.
Robert was elected foundation president of the South Australian Country Press Association in March 1912 and president of the Australasian Provincial Press Association (1914–15). When Robert died in 1917, Hannah took the reins again briefly. Frank, who had become expert as a linotype operator, became the printer and publisher and, in 1921, the manager. Assisting him was Emily in the front shop. When she died in 1925, eldest brother William returned from Adelaide after 49 years on the Advertiser and became the linotype operator for three years until his death.
During the Great Depression, Frank’s son, Kenneth Lindley (1919–2000), left school at 14 to join the family firm and became a qualified linotype operator. After serving in World War II, he rebuilt the nearly bankrupt Bunyip into a viable business. He acquired other newspapers, including the Salisbury News, on the northern fringes of Adelaide, in 1948. Ken withdrew from day-to-day management in 1974–75, and son John Lindley (1945– ) became the managing editor; another son, Craig Kenneth (1951– ), became his assistant and Paul William (1957– ) was the photographer. John and Craig became the owners in 1978; they sold in 2003 to the Taylor family, proprietors of the Murray Pioneer (Renmark) since 1905 and more recently papers at Loxton, Waikerie, Burra and Pinnaroo.
REFs: R. Kirkpatrick, ‘How the Bunyip became more than the medium for jokes’, PANPA Bulletin (October 2001); R. Kirkpatrick, interviews with John and Craig Barnet (2003).