WHAT a year.
Journalists around the world, from tiny newsrooms to international bureaus, were all focused on the same beast this year: COVID-19.
But while it's easy to look back at 2020 and see the pandemic colouring everything, that wasn't the only news story of the year.
At the Bendigo Advertiser, journalists continued to report on the big and small issues affecting central Victoria every day, alongside breaking coronavirus news.
Below are some of the stories that have stuck with our journalists throughout 2020, broken down into eight categories: good news, human interest, business and council, environment, Dja Dja Wurrung, court and crime, health and safety, and real estate and development.
As the year winds up, it's a chance to reflect on what was...
Business and council
Golden Square Pool saved after hour-long council debate
Journalist Emma D'Agostino says: It was an emotive issue for all involved, including councillors at July's meeting. But the Golden Square Pool prevailed, with the council opting to retain the much-loved facility as part of the broader recreation reserve as user groups planned for their futures. The debate highlighted the needs of all in the precinct as the city, and the suburb, grows and develops.
La Trobe faces money woes
Journalist Tara Cosoleto says: The university sector has felt the full brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been multiple rounds of staff voluntary redundancies as institutions try to cut costs. This story was one of many I wrote about the challenges at La Trobe, but it was great to have some insight from the university's professors.
A tale of resilience
Journalist Nicholas Nakos says: When Amie Goodwin lost son Romeo, aged five-and-a-half months, she admitted her life could have gone one of two ways. The mother-of-four has since commenced a Bachelor of Education at La Trobe University and hopes to educate special needs learners.
Ms Goodwin's brave and courageous story is testament to her tenacity and strength, which wasn't unrecognised by La Trobe, who awarded her the Flo Robinson Education Memorial Bursary.
Thank you Amie for sharing your story with me and our readers. Your courage is inspiring.
Ally's journey to save her voice
Journalist Elspeth Kernebone says: Baby Ally was facing the possibility of a life without a voice, when I first spoke to parents Molly and Joel Davis. She had been born with a rare condition causing facial paralysis, as well as a cleft palate and club feet. Frightening episodes where Ally stopped breathing had taken the family to neonatal intensive care.
A successful surgery saved Ally from tracheostomy, but months later the family were still struggling to access support such as respite care through the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They were only given access to the scheme when the Bendigo Advertiser made enquiries about their plight.
Series of events leaves family unflappable
Kernebone says: When a car crashed into the Golden Square milkbar, it was the latest in a long series of dramas for Owen Stuchbery and Milica Kastratovic, in hotel quarantine at the time. Mr Stuchbery had spent half the year stranded in the Caribbean, while Ms Kastratovic and their children were at home in Montenegro.
When he finally made it back, it seemed their every effort to return to Australia, and Mr Stuchbery's home town of Bendigo, was cancelled. But Mr Stuchbery said so much had happened, it took a lot to faze the pair now. They still hope to open the milkbar as a cafe in the future.
Court and crime
Coroner refers Aboriginal woman's death in custody to prosecutor
Journalist Natalie Croxon says: Almost two and a half years after Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day suffered a fatal head injury in a Castlemaine police cell, coroner Caitlin English found an offence might have been committed in relation to the 55-year-old Echuca grandmother's death. No charges were laid against the officers in charge of Ms Day's welfare, but the coroner recommended the offence of public drunkenness be repealed and this month, the Victorian government introduced a bill to parliament to do so.
Teen guilty of Maryborough man John Bourke's murder
Croxon says: The 2018 death of John Bourke, a 45-year-old who had 'brittle bone disease', shocked the Maryborough community and devastated friends and family of the kind, gregarious, witty and loving man - all the more so because two teenage boys, then aged 15 and 17, were charged with his murder. In March this year, the younger boy was found guilty of murder after a trial that heard Mr Bourke was not even the intended target of the assault that claimed his life. The older boy was acquitted of murder but the jury could not reach a decision on the alternative charge of manslaughter. He later pleaded guilty to home invasion and recklessly causing serious injury, and was sentenced to three years in a youth justice centre.
We need to talk about coercive control
D'Agostino says: The murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children in February had Australians reeling with horror. And they highlighted a system of abuse, which investigative journalist Jess Hill said needed to be better recognised as violence. Speaking to a central Victorian audience, Hill sought to promote an understanding of coercive control - an issue Victorian, national, and international experts and lawmakers are grappling with as they consider legislative responses.
More than 50 women are known to have died by violence this year - more than one a week. Central Victorian services recorded an increase in reports of violence during the year and were bracing for an even busier festive season than usual as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic added pressures for families.
If you or someone you know is experiencing family, domestic or sexual violence, help is available. Contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency, phone 000.
Real estate and development
Beehive Building ready to buzz again
Nakos says: It's not often you get to see a 150-year old building rediscover its charm, but Pall Mall's Beehive Building has done just that. I was fortunate enough to tour the building twice in 2020 and what a transformation it has made. The hidden gems, such as a steel door discovered in 100-year-old quartz concrete, stairs featuring hand nailed, decorative cooper nails and stunning stained glass windows are all part of the Beehive's appeal. It will be fascinating to see how this building develops in 2021 and the diverse offerings it will provide.
Many thanks to owner Craig Lightfoot, DBG Projects' Brett Marris and all of the site contractors for generously sharing their time and knowledge.
Insight into the challenges of development
Nakos says: It's been a busy year for Bendigo real estate. From record demand for houses and land, to exciting new developments and businesses opportunities, there was plenty going on. A proposed development on the corner of MacKenzie and Forest Streets, Bendigo, was one planning matter that caught my eye. Developers are seeking to establish fourteen dwellings on the site of the former All Saints' Anglican Church, the oldest in Bendigo. Plans for the site are currently being tweaked following a dispute that landed in VCAT, where a planning permit was revoked.
In November, the former church was ravaged by vandals who damaged some heritage features of the property. The planning application in question offered me a glimpse into the challenges of getting a new development underway and patience is king.
Health and safety
Toxic legacy: pesticide disrupts life decades after abolition
Journalist Tom O'Callaghan says: Bob Cole is living in the shadow of a toxic pesticide once widely-used across Australia. The Bendigo resident's body is riddled by cancer and he suffers short-term memory lapses more than half a century after handling dieldrin, a poison once used to protect underground phone cables from termite attack. Mr Cole has urged people who use modern chemicals like glyphosate - the active ingredient in many herbicides - to keep a close eye on their health, especially after a US court awarded damages to a man who believed it had contributed to his health problems.
Bendigo's first confirmed COVID-19 patient recovers
D'Agostino says: It was early April, and Victoria was in the grips of its first wave of the novel coronavirus. Bendigo's first COVID-19 patient had recently recovered and shared his experiences in the hope of informing others about COVID-19 and encouraging collective efforts to stop its spread.
Months down the track, the young man reflected on his good fortune in coming home from the United Kingdom, where he had been living and studying - and where he was believed to have been infected with the virus.
Quality Cancer Care patients call for answers; clinic director's medical registration suspended
D'Agostino says: When Safer Care Victoria launched an 'urgent review' into Bendigo's Quality Cancer Care in June, patients and doctors were shocked. But it wasn't the only agency investigating the specialist skin cancer clinic and its director, with Victoria's Health Complaints Commissioner and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency also making inquiries. As the months went by and the investigations continued, several of the clinic's former patients called for answers.
Alarm as women driven to demand major surgery
D'Agostino says: A spike in interest in hysterectomies in central Victoria raised concerns for one of the region's obstetrician gynaecologists. Faced with resistance when suggesting less extreme methods of treatment, and scaling up as required, Dr Angelika Borozdina sought to encourage women to consider their options. Bendigo women Rachelle Anderson did just that and had some insights to share about her experiences.
Dire need in the Loddon Mallee
Kernebone says: Paramedic numbers have been an issue in the Loddon Mallee for years. But Victoria's ambulance unions stepped up the fight this year, saying Bendigo paramedics raised concerns daily. They've warned paramedics are working solo and that small towns are being left without coverage, as crews are forced to work Bendigo jobs. It's come with incidents reported of single-responder paramedics being forced to transport patients in the front seat of an ambulance, as no one was available to monitor them in the back.
Dja Dja Wurrung
Inside the ambitious dream to reintroduce dingoes, emus and quolls
O'Callaghan says: The Dja Dja Wurrung have the coolest ideas of any group in Bendigo and a track-record of making them happen. This one is in its earliest stages but could help the Traditional Owners one day reintroduce native species that have vanished from central Victoria.
One side of this road has no possums, the other is a marsupial Mecca
O'Callaghan says: It is strange but true. One busy Strathdale road is all it takes to turn bushland into a forest devoid of diversity. That could soon change thanks to a project the Dja Dja Wurrung are spearheading. It is part of a wider push to heal land they have long branded "upside-down Country".
Creating maps to bring Aboriginal ancestors back to country
Croxon says: This is a really fascinating project, and something that could prove vital in redressing one of the wrongs inflicted on Aboriginal communities.
Environment and natural disasters
Firefighters share their experiences in "hell"
Cosoleto says: We all know the summer bushfires in East Gippsland were devastating for residents and fire crews. I was fortunate enough to speak to some of the central Victorian firefighters just after they returned from Mallacoota. It was heart-wrenching to hear these seasoned firies share their experiences.
Biodiversity 'collapsing before our eyes', chief scientist warns
O'Callaghan says: Forests around Bendigo are in the middle of a major biodiversity crisis. Multiple central Victorian groups are worried that "serious budgetary shortfalls" and legislation they say is lacklustre is hampering the push to stop local extinction events.
Feral birds linked to killing sprees across Bendigo
O'Callaghan says: So it turns out people really hate Indian mynah birds. This story touched a nerve with people and became one of the most well-ready for the month, likely reflecting people's increasing alarm as the feral pest colonises more neighbourhoods. The group featured in this story are using traps to capture the birds but there are things you can do to make your garden less appealing to them. Planting lots of shrubs minimises "park-like" habitat that Indian mynahs prefer, for example.
Good news and light relief
Finding love in aged care
Cosoleto says: In a year of sad news, it was nice to write such a positive story! John and Dorothea were so generous with their time and clearly in love. It was only fitting that we published this story on Valentine's Day.
Young cook Ben Bolton captures Australian's hearts on Junior Masterchef
Journalist Chris Pedler says: At age five, Ben Bolton learned to cook at his grandmother's elbow. This year the 10-year-old Bendigo student successfully auditioned for Junior Masterchef. Along with impressing in the kitchen, judges and audience were also drawn to Ben's happy and positive attitude.
Ben made it to the final six competitors this season before a dessert challenge bought him undone and he was eliminated. It was a fantastic run on the show and Ben intends to continue developing his culinary skills.
Bendigo prospectors unearth largest gold find in show's history
Pedler says: In the 19th century, the central Victorian Goldfields were teeming with gold nuggets. This year, Bendigo brothers-in-law Ethan West and Brent Shannon were able to unearth two gold nuggets collectively worth more than $350,000 as part of the show Aussie Gold Hunters. It was the largest in the show's history and a relief for the pair, who had been held up while waiting for permits.
Tyson shares sewing skills
Pedler says: When face coverings became mandatory in Victoria, a 12-year-old in Wedderburn got to work. Tyson Blair created dozens of face masks for the elderly residents in his town to ensure everyone had access to one. Later in the year, Tyson was nominated for a Fred Hollows Humanity Award.
Couples tie the knot during pandemic
Pedler says: Countless events, celebrations and performances were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year but some couples forged ahead with their weddings. Newlyweds Catelyn and Rhys Bull and Sarah and Harrison Luke got married in the midst of the pandemic. Both couples chose dates that were important to them and have no regrets about how they chose to make their vows.