The 25th annual NSW Rural Women’s Gathering event was held on the weekend from 27-29 October at Narrandera. Hosted by a committee of more than 20 talented and dedicated women from Narrandera and surrounding district, these women worked tirelessly for the last 18 months to deliver this special anniversary gathering.
As the major sponsor for the event, Rural Women’s Network and DPI staff joined women from across NSW for what was a truly spectacular weekend. It provided the ideal opportunity for women (rural, regional and city based) to come together to be inspired by local and international women who shared their stories, to network and make new friends, learn new skills through a broad array of workshops and cultural experiences, and to share their issues and concerns.
Newly elected Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke MP, officially opened the event on behalf of Minister Blair on the Saturday morning. She shared her journey from a small child growing up in Temora, competing as an Olympic standard swimmer, running her own small business, to winning the seat of Cootamundra in the recent by-election. She then had the official role of launching the 2017 Hidden Treasures Honour Roll recognising more than 100 rural women volunteers across NSW, and announcing the NSW government $30,000 sponsorship for the 2018 Rural Women’s Gathering at Merimbula.
To mark 25 years of the NSW Rural Women’s Gatherings, Steph was joined by Narrandera Gathering Chair, Tammy Galvin, and coordinators of the first NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Marg Carroll and Ronnie Hazelton, to cut a special commemorative cake. Margaret and Ronnie spoke about the reasons behind the first women’s gathering and why it still remains relevant to this day.
Lots of women’s stories were featured throughout the weekend showcasing past and present rural women from the surrounding areas. They included Kate O’Callaghan (General Manager of Southern Cotton), Tammy Galvin (Chair of the Committee), Betina Walker (Whispering Pines Organics and Runner-up in the Australian Women’s Weekly 2015 Women in Business Award), Annette Turner (President – CWA of NSW), Aimee Snowden (The Lego Farmer and NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award Finalist), local girl Shakira Lyons (mechanic) and Carmella La Rocca (Multicultural Council of Griffith).
Other keynote speakers included Prof. Dame Marie Bashir AD. CVO who was a special guest on the Friday evening. On Friday night participants were treated to the Cad Factory Shadow Places landscape artwork and light installation featured along the Narrandera Traveling Stock Reserve. These large scale artworks featured images projected onto hay bales with surrounding and accompanying textile installations. One of the installations focused on rural women highlighting the important role that women have played in our rural places and the work that has been done to effect social and cultural change.
A highlight of the event for most participants was Jerilderie girls, Rosalie Ham, who wrote The Dressmaker, and Sue Maslin, who directed the award winning film. They each spoke on the Saturday evening and Sunday program and were a huge hit with the crowd. We got some interesting behind the scenes glimpses into the story behind The Dressmaker and the movie making process.
As part of RWN’s response to the ‘What Rural Women Say’ report which identified ‘Supporting rural carers’ as one of the top 5 most often mentioned challenges, RWN supported six rural women carers to attend the Gathering. We also ran an interactive panel session on the Sunday where three rural women carers shared their personal journey of caring, to raise awareness of some of the issue and challenges carers face. We included an interactive component, using the slido app, to gather feedback from participants about how people can better value and support carers. This feedback will be collated and written up into a mini report. A brochure which provided details on information and support available to carers within NSW was also prepared and provided to participants on the day.
RWN ran a goal setting workshop (a slice of SOFT) with great feedback from participants. The women said they highly valued the workshop with 100% reporting they were ‘likely to very likely’ to do something different as a result of attending the workshop.
RWN also hosted a trade display and the story pod throughout the weekend where several women shared their stories.
Plans are already underway for the 2018 Women’s Gathering in Merimbula from 19-21 October. For details and updates visit; www.sapphirecoastconnections.org