News Corp Australia is axing grants worth $7000 to Victorian communities.
The news comes as the company announced seven of its newspapers under the Leader masthead would be dumped.
From next month, Leader newspapers will close in Berwick, Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Melbourne, Melton, Wyndham and at the Free Press, which covers the Yarra Ranges.
News Corp Australia’s corporate affairs manager Tara Hayes told The Newsroom that the closures mean the seven Leader grants, which donated $1000 per newspaper each year to a local project, will be scrapped.
The Melton Leader awarded a $1000 grant to the Melbourne Homeless Collective to kick-start the Melton Period Project, which provides sanitary items to homeless women in Melton and surrounding suburbs.
The collective’s director Donna Stolzenberg told The Newsroom the charity was “incredibly privileged” to receive the grant.
“I think Melton struggles in many areas regarding start-ups of grassroots organisations because it is so far from the city and from any other support.
“The Leader grant was a great way for a new project to get started each year and to then hopefully be taken on and supported by the public,” she said.
Ms Stolzenberg said the Melton Leader had been “incredible” in raising awareness for the charity, publishing many articles on the Melbourne Homeless Collective.
“We have received some wonderful support from the Melton Community as a result. I am deeply disappointed to see that the Melton Leader will no longer be in publication,” she said.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Victorian director Carolyn Dunbar said the closures were a “devastating cut” for community news and argued local communities “need local news”.
The closures will also give rise to up to eight redundancies.
In a message to readers, News Corp Australia said it was no longer “commercially possible” to publish the seven newspapers and said the remaining Leader newspapers have the “strongest future for commercial success and audience growth”.
News Corp Australia’s Ms Hayes said there were no plans to close more Leader newspapers, instead: “Leader has plans to rejuvenate its portfolio of community news media brands.”
For more information on the Melbourne Homeless Collective, or to donate, visit their website. – Matthew Male