AFTER 19 years of helping to spread the news and ensure that everyone can keep up to date with what's happening around the Manning, the Talking Times recorded their final edition this week.
Over the years there have been many volunteers who have assisted this vital community service, both narrating and producing the tapes to be sent to vision impaired residents around the area.
Raema Burrows has championed the local organisation since the beginning, as their tireless co-ordinator for the entire 19 years, and she is still joined by a handful of original members who have lasted the distance with her.
"I can still remember going to the very first meeting in the Times office," recalls Raema.
"It had been advertised in the paper and volunteers were asked to come along and learn about the concept."
Over the years there have been many changes and it hasn't been without its struggles but Raema said it's a vital service and it's been worth fighting for.
Talking Times has always been produced out of the Manning Regional Uniting Church and Raema, Valda Armstrong and Jean Smith all laughed when recalling some of their room changes over the years to accommodate the different church services and events that were happening at the same time.
"I can still remember when we got moved into the kindie room and we all had to squash into miniature seats," laughs Valda.
Each edition is still produced on the original recorders that were donated to the organisation by Taree RSL Club back in 1994, and Raema says it's amazing that they've lasted so long.
"They've had to be coaxed back to life a few times," she laughs.
"And they were getting harder and harder to service because no one has the parts for them anymore."
Former councillor, Wendy McKeough was the patron of the service for many years and Raema says she encouraged everyone to get involved, including husbands and partners who may have been vision impaired themselves.
"That was a big part of it, and it let them see that there were so many other people out there in the same position as them," she says.
Numbers have varied over the years with 139 recipients of the service starting out in 1994 and finishing with 26 this week.
Although all the volunteers are sad to see it come to and end, they all know that the changing nature of technology meant it was an inevitable occurrence, with the format now moving to a downloadable edition that will be available immediately.
"We'll miss it, but we know it's been coming," said Valda.
Talking Times history
Vision Australia, the nation's leading blindness and low vision services, has been working in partnership with the Manning River Times since 1994 to produce the "Talking Manning River Times."
The service was previously being run by local volunteers who selected articles from the paper and recorded them onto cassette in their own homes. However cassettes will soon become obsolete so Vision Australia has developed a new service to keep residents up to date with their local news.
"The Talking Manning River Times" volunteers have done a terrific job in providing this vital service over many years and it has made a huge difference in the lives of our clients," said Michael Ward, national coordinator audio description and talking newspaper, Vision Australia.
"The new system builds on the current service by using digital technology to produce a high quality product that can easily be navigated.
"Vision Australia clients can skip through the content to find the information that is of interest to them and they will receive their newspaper at around the same time as their sighted neighbours," he added.
The new service will be produced centrally in a Digital Access Information System (DAISY) format and can be played on a specially designed digital playback device, available from Vision Australia.
To access the service people will need to contact Vision Australia on 1300 84 74 66.
Combining the skills and resources of several leading blindness organisations to create one national voice, Vision Australia is committed to delivering exceptional and efficient services that open up exciting possibilities for our community.
For more information or to support Vision Australia call 1300 84 74 66 or visit www.visionaustralia.org