Our 64th issue of The Country Web explores the theme ‘connect and collaborate‘ and features stories about creating meaningful connections, mentoring, sharing wisdom, books and people that inspire others.
In this issue we profile the 2017 NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award recipients and find out how they are contributing to their local communities and industries through creative pursuits. If you are inspired by their stories and are interesting in applying for the 2018 Rural Women’s Award you can find out more about the award and how to apply on the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award webpage. AgriFutures will host a special webinar this Thursday for women interested in applying. To register simply send an email with the subject ‘hello’ to: email@example.com
As part of our Rural Women’s Network 25 year anniversary celebrations, we have included ’25 fast facts over 25 years’ which highlight some of the activities and projects we have delivered over the years. Make sure you have a look and if you have been involved in any of these activities we invite you to send us your thoughts about how the RWN has played a role (big or small) in your life. You can email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or for those feeling a little more creative why not send us a video.
To kick off the stories from our 2017 annual issue of The Country Web I thought I would share Fran Rowe’s editorial. Fran has been a wonderful ambassador for rural women and as she retires from her role as a Rural Financial Counsellor we thought it was only fitting that she wrote the editorial for this ‘connect and collaborate’ issue…
‘The barriers to (farm) adjustment are much less tangible than cold, hard (equity) cash. They include: The love of land, the history and tradition of land ownership, the homestead garden, family members buried in the local cemetery, the honour roll at the local memorial, the avenue of trees planted after the ’46 fires, the pride in breeding stock, the satisfaction of producing, the fear of lack of ability to cope in the world outside the farm gate, your place in the community, an individual’s sense of self and self-worth’.
I delivered these words to the 1996 Rural Summit. Now, two decades on, the Rowe family has jumped the barrier of adjustment and following many seasons of agricultural production, we have sold our farm.
As I face retirement from farming and rural counselling, those words from 1996 resonate, bringing not only the sorrow associated with letting go of the land but also that of farewelling the many farming families with whom I’ve travelled over the years as a Rural Financial Counsellor.
The role of a rural counsellor has been one of privilege. The privilege of being part of a family’s fears, concerns, aspirations and desires. In ‘normal’ times the case work is heartening as families seek to better understand the historical and current business position and seek to identify future aims and objectives and how best to achieve those objectives. In times of drought, flood, bank pressure, and threatened loss, there is sadness, grief, depression, stoicism, tears, frustration, anger but also shared humour. Now, both farming and rural counselling are to become past chapters of my life.
So, what of the future? First, I’m off to travel the Pilgrim’s Way—walking my way through (part of) Spain. This pilgrimage will provide the opportunity for reflection.
I will without doubt reflect on the beginnings of the Rural Financial Counselling Service in the knowledge that it was women who were the initial respondents to the fledging counselling service of the 80’s crisis period. Rural women made the initial connection to the service and collaborated with the Rural Financial Counsellor to respond to the challenges of that time. Many families survived those crisis years to pass the land to a younger generation and many, whose kids had moved to greener more regional or urban pastures responded as we now respond, telling our kids ‘The Farm is a business, it will be sold as a business, Dad will get a floozie, mum a toy boy and you kids will get what’s left over’. The laughter hides the pain!
Those early crisis years also spawned the RWN, which evolved from a small network of committed women. Women determined to provide a forum to address issues of importance to rural and regional women and women’s concerns and needs, to partner with other programs and develop projects of interest to women, and to promote and encourage the participation of women in policy development.
As the network developed one could not but admire the diversity, resilience, articulation
and compassion of rural women. As Pat O’Shane noted at the first NSW Women’s Gathering: Rural women are the gatherers in our rural communities. They gather the information to assist their families and communities to respond to adjustment
pressures’. Rural women connect. Rural women collaborate.
RWN remains strong 25 years on, developing with the support of a small but dedicated team within Department of Primary Industries, demonstrating an extraordinary ability to promote leadership skills, encourage broad based community participation and to promote the value of connecting and collaborating. I raise my akubra to the dedicated staff and marvel at the opportunities provided to readers by stories in this 2017 annual issue of The Country Web.
As I leave behind the title of ‘farmer’ and ‘rural counsellor’, Hayley’s article (page 7) reminds me to ‘rebuild my social connections’ when moving to my new town, and RWN’s 25 Fast Facts Over 25 Years (page 34) recalls those early crossroad meetings and encourages me to continue to connect and collaborate in my new title of regional (retired) woman.
Call for stories
The 2018 annual issue of The Country Web will celebrate ’25 years of the NSW Rural Women’s Network’. We want to hear from people whose lives have been touched by the RWN in some way over the years.
Contributions are required by 30 April 2018 for publication in August 2018.
Email your contribution to email@example.com or post to:
The Editor – The Country Web
Rural Women’s Network, NSW DPI
Locked Bag 21
Orange NSW 2800