by Sonia Muir, Orange (now travelling the world)
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual
Back in 1992 I was flicking through the employment section of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and saw a job for an ‘Assistant Coordinator’ for the newly formed NSW Rural Women’s Network (RWN). I thought … Hmm, I grew up on a farm, I’m a woman and this could be fun. I also remember thinking … where on earth is Orange?
I was a North Coast girl through and through and had a very urban Scottish husband. The first time Gordon had ever been on a ‘dirt’ road was when he met my family on our farm near Murwillumbah.
My Dad was a Romanian refugee who came to Australia after the second world war, so our family was small with relatives living in Sydney and Melbourne or the two further farms down our road.
Apart from a childhood camping trip with a few neighbours to Lightning Ridge once, we always had our two weeks ‘annual leave’ break from banana growing at beachside Coolangatta, a 45-minute drive away.
Anyway as they say … nothing ventured nothing gained, so I drove the 2000 km round trip for the interview and started with the RWN in January 1993.
I was very happy when I was offered a permanent position a couple of years later and so we stayed.
Over the past 25 years I have enjoyed a close ongoing professional connection to the RWN and expanded my responsibilities to include the Rural Resilience and Young Farmer Business programs.
It has been an incredibly fulfilling and creative career, first as an art teacher and then with the RWN where I have had many opportunities to be inspired by the resilience of rural women and men who work and live across our state’s diverse rural landscapes.
My first task with the RWN was to set up The Country Web newsletter—a much loved publication that is still coveted by readers across NSW and remains a flagship publication for the Network.
I’ve had chats with thousands of remarkable women through the fantastic annual rural women’s gatherings, attending events and while facilitating the SOFT workshops held in freezing cold country churches, cosy women’s lounge rooms, outback halls and motel dining rooms.
I’ve captured stories of women doing amazing things in Daring to Dream 1 and 2 and contributed to a glossy coffee table book for Year of the Outback.
I’ve sat on numerous panels, given loads of presentations, written countless briefs and taken lots of long car trips with or without a passenger or two.
I’ve worked with dedicated women paid and unpaid who continue to make a difference to their family, their community and the wider world.
I’ve been supported to travel to South Africa for a World Rural Women’s Conference and complete the 18-month Vincent Fairfax Leadership Program, which took me all over Australia as well as Malaysia and India.
I’ve funded myself to represent rural women in Beijing at the United Nations Conference on Women and at a dinner with President Bill Clinton in San Francisco.
As I now look down the road of a new and exciting phase I can always reflect on these moments and know the RWN lives on through the dedication of the team. Allison and I have worked together for over 20 years so I know everything is in good hands—ably supported by the team.
When we moved to Orange for that temporary role, everything we owned fitted into our little red Astra… and now I have gone the full circle.
We are taking another big leap having sold our house, our car and most of our ‘stuff’. We know we can do this as we’ve done it before and look forward to whatever adventures lay ahead as we move to South East Asia to explore volunteering and living a more simple life.
My blog will be a way of sharing this with others: soniamuir.wordpress.com
It has been a privilege and an honour to have had so many experiences at the RWN which has contributed to developing me into who I am today. Thank you to everyone who has given me such generous hospitality over the years and to those who sent cards and messages, I shall treasure these and feel humbled by your kindness and words.
What’s behind the name?
When the concept for The Country Web was being developed RWN ran a competition for rural women to name the newsletter! A judging panel— drawn from women around NSW, the State Committee, Central West Group, Orange/Far West Group and NSW Agriculture Taskforce for the RWN— had the difficult task of selecting the winning entry!
Jerilderie’s Marion Palmer had the winning entry with the magazine officially named The Country Web. Marion said, ‘The arms of the ‘web’ provide the framework around which the fragile thread is spun, thus linking everything together with the end result a delicate but strong and flexible work of art. To me, this resembles what the Rural Women’s Network is all about— connecting people in far flung areas and drawing them all together through the newsletter.’
This 25th anniversary issue of The Country Web is a special milestone for the Network and rural women. Since it first rolled off the press back in 1993 the newsletter has been a constant source of information and support for women dealing with the many aspects of rural life. We look forward to bringing you many more issues in the future.