Ionian Club provides friendship for women on the move

by Chris Hindmarsh, Ionian Club Orange President.
As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.

The Ionian Club is a network of clubs for women who are, or have been, newly arrived in an area and appreciate the friendship and support of other women.

Orange Ionian Friendship Club

Orange Ionian Club members Patti Jacobson, Maureen Houghton, Elaine Curll, Jenny Petrie and Wendy Blake.

The original Ionian Club was formed in Launceston in October 1946 by Phyllis McDonald, when as a newcomer to the city, she found herself very lonely and felt a need for a club where other women in similar circumstances would meet to share their social and cultural interests. There are now 21 Ionian Clubs throughout Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. The Orange Club was formed in April 1974. There are four other clubs in NSW including Albury-Wodonga, Newcastle, Sydney76 and Sydney84.

The Ionians were one of the four tribes of Ancient Greece. They travelled from Athens, around the Mediterranean and were known for their love of philosophy, art, democracy and pleasure. The Ionian crest, with its pillars, artists’ brushes and Lyre depicts the cultural interests of the Ionian Clubs. It was designed by Joan Tapp, Phyllis’ sister and founder of the Ionian Club, Sydney.

Clubs hold monthly meetings, have dinners or luncheons to celebrate special events and run interest groups such as craft, book club, Bridge, Mahjong, walking, have outings and events that include partners and friends, and host small fundraisers for charity.
Our Orange Ionian Club meets for lunch on the second Thursday of each month at Duntry League Golf Club. It provides the perfect setting for friendship and networking.

We have a lovely mix of long-term members and people who are new to Orange and the surrounding areas. And we also welcome newcomers to the area so we can assist them in establishing themselves. Currently we have members who travel to Orange from Cowra and Bathurst.

In April we celebrate our Birthday. Members of other Ionian clubs are invited to join us and we welcome them with a small party the evening before, usually at the home of one of our members. This year marked 43 years of the Orange Club.

The October meeting is Charity Day. Members are encouraged to invite friends along to our charity lunch. There are raffles, a trading table with goods members have made or grown themselves throughout the year. There is usually entertainment or a guest speaker. The money raised is donated to a local charity which is chosen at the July AGM.

Our Orange Club hold a number of social activities which include a coffee morning or lunch, book club and walking club, as well as the occasionally Sunday lunch or dinner.
Orange Ionian Club members Patti Jacobson, Maureen Houghton, Elaine Curll, Jenny Petrie and Wendy Blake.

Money raised from this year’s annual fundraiser will go to Special Olympics Australia, Central West, which provides sporting opportunities in a range of sports for people with an intellectual disability. The money will go to support the purchase of new sporting equipment and to help with travel costs for participants to attend events and competitions.

Currently, the Central West Club has about 13 athletes from across the Central West who get to complete at a local, state, national and international level in a range of sports including swimming, basketball and athletics.

Chair of the Central West Club, Terry Betts, said, ”We have plans to expand the program to other centres and are always on the look out for coaches willing to volunteer their time so we can provide even more opportunities.

‘Seven of our Central West athletes have been selected to compete in the national games to be held at Adelaide next year. The committee will need to fundraise $3000 each to support them to participate in the event.

‘We want to hear from people who would like to volunteer their time as a coach, help to manage competitions, assist with fundraising or join the committee. As we all know, many hands make light work.’

For more information about Special Olympics Australia, to join the club or if you are interested in being involved in a volunteer capacity or as a coach contact Terry Betts:

Ionian Club Orange President, Chris Hindmarsh said, ‘We are thrilled to be able to provide financial support to Special Olympics Club and hope that our funds go a long way in supporting our local athletes to compete in competitions and show the community their many abilities.’

If you are interested joining the Ionian Club or you would like to find out more about starting a Club in your area contact call Chris Hindmarsh 02 6366 3555.

More information


Posted in Communities, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, Rural Australia, rural women, The Country Web, women, women's networks | Tagged | Leave a comment

Daring to dream: Maddie Cook

As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

Maddie Cook grew up on a farm in central west NSW. After finishing school she moved to Canberra and completed a double degree in Graphic Design and Advertising & Marketing Communication at Canberra University. After graduating University Maddie started her own communications business and completed a Certificate IV in New Small Business.
In addition to running her own business, Maddie works as a part-time Social Media Officer three days a week and is a social media volunteer at Country to Canberra–a not-for-profit organisation that empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential.

Maddie Cook (1)

Maddie Cook says moving to Canberra made her very aware of the challenges people living in rural and remote areas face compared to their city counterparts…

Maddie says that moving to Canberra made her very aware of the challenges people living in rural and remote areas face compared to their city counterparts—especially within the communication industry. It was this realisation, combined with her passion for promoting farming and rural Australia that drove her to create Maddie Cook Communications.

What gave you the motivation/inspiration to follow your dream?

I have always known I wanted to make a positive difference in the world by promoting the significant role and importance of farmers and agriculture to our lives.

When I graduated Uni and started the process of finding a job, I quickly became disheartened when none of the job descriptions really felt like me. Knowing the importance of getting my foot in the door within the Advertising industry I started doing some freelance work, specialising in communication strategies for rural Australian businesses. It was at this time that I began to wonder whether I could start my own business. I was only 23, however, I had a sense that this was something I needed to pursue.

At what point did you realise your dream was possible and what was it that made you think you could really do it?

Starting my own business has been like riding a roller coaster and trying to keep my hat on. Some days are great and I feel like I can conquer the world, and other days I can’t see the forest for the trees.  Focusing on the productive days, client successes, ticking goals, and meeting new and interesting people is what has given me the motivation and drive to continue on the journey and see where it takes me.

As a child, what did you want to ‘be’ when you grew up?

When I first watch the movie, ‘What Women Want’, where Helen Hunt played Creative Director Darcy Maguire, I knew right then that I wanted her job! I loved her sophistication, elegance and courage.

How has your childhood influenced you?

Growing up on our family farm in central west NSW has given me a passion for country life, an understanding of small rural businesses, and a strong interest in agricultural advocacy for our farmers and their produce.

I went to a small primary school of 52 children before moving away from home at the age of 12 to go to boarding school. I was homesick the first six months of boarding school and missed my family and home terribly. Living away doesn’t get any easier but I suppose you just get used to it. My six years at boarding school taught me how to be independent and overcome barriers and it gave the opportunity to meet other families from all over rural Australia and to make lifelong friendships.

Who are your role models?

I’m lucky to be surrounded by lots of inspirational people doing amazing things in both my personal and professional life.

My parents and grandparents have always encouraged me to be my best self. They have overcome some of life’s toughest challenges—including drought and family loss—yet they always summon the strength and courage to push through to better times. I believe this is where I get my determination to succeed.

My mother and grandmother are the most important female role models in my life. Apart from being hilariously funny they are courageous, kind and have taught me how to be a strong woman and to give back to the community. If I can become half the woman they are I will consider myself successful.

What does success mean to you?

For me success is that feeling you get when you have made a positive difference, enhanced someone’s life or reached a personal or business goal.

What has been one of the biggest barriers you have had to face?

I can be my own biggest barrier but I guess that makes success even sweeter when you overcome a personal barrier. Self-confidence and self-doubt are my two biggest barriers. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we aren’t perfect, and to focus on growing as a person and working on those personality traits that may need a little tweaking.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years time I hope to have made a positive difference to the way people perceive and view farming and rural Australia.

What would you say to other women starting out on a daring to dream journey?

If you’re thinking of starting something new don’t let others tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t, trust your gut and just do it.

Don’t wait around for your life to start. Life is short, so get out there and start living it, today!

More Information:
Country to Canberra
m: 0418 135 989
e: contact@countryto


Posted in agriculture, leadership, Marketing, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, Rural Australia, rural women, Volunteering, Women in Focus | Tagged , | Leave a comment

In small places, close to home

by Angela Powditch, North Coast of NSW.
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home’. And ‘home’ is where my story begins …

I am a single mum with two young children aged five and six years. I live in rural NSW in a seaside village. I am also the victim of domestic violence (DV) and financial domestic violence (FDV).

Angela Powditch, a Bachelor of Laws student, has been accepted to complete an International Human Rights Course at Oxford University, in the UK, in July/August 2016.

Angela Powditch: you never know how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong!

My situation has taught me: you never know how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong!

I have risen through adversity and taken on a new outlook and desire to pursue a career in human rights. I am on my way! I am in my third year of law at Southern Cross University and will complete my degree at the end of next year after I finish honours. I plan to roll out a FDV program over the next year. In the meantime, I am working to educate others and advocate for victims of FDV.

Last year I found an opportunity on the internet that I really wanted to pursue: a one month International Human Rights Law Course at Oxford University. I knew it would provide unmatchable experience and the credits would count towards my Australian law degree.

Before applying I spoke to Deb, a good friend I have known for 20 years, and said I was interested in applying but wondered: Would I really have a hope of getting in? If I did who would look after my kids? How would I afford the $20k for course costs plus airfares etc? Deb simply said I should go for it and if I got in she would take long service leave and fly up from Sydney with her family to look after my kids. So I did … and you know what? I was accepted with 69 others from around the world! I rang Deb and she said, ‘Great! I’ll lock in my time off work and come.’

I then had to raise the money for the course. I contacted media outlets and had articles in the papers advising I had a GoFundMe account set up and would appreciate any support. I also knocked on doors at my uni and was awarded a one-off scholarship, the SCU Associate Alumni Scholarship, and the rest I was loaned by the Australian Government through OS Help—a loan available to eligible students enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place who want to undertake some of their study overseas. So with the help of family, friends, strangers and colleagues alike my dream became a reality!

And as you could imagine, it was the experience of a lifetime! One night we had a formal dinner in the Great Hall (the grounds were used to film parts of the Harry Potter movies). Guests included judges, United Nations staff, law students and a Danish diplomat, who were all pursuing the same course. I kept pinching myself, thinking ‘plus there’s me from my little seaside village’.

The study regime was intense, as were the exams. But I think, as well as the interesting subject matter, the most striking thing was the genuine humility amongst the students and the ‘rock stars of the human rights world’ that I met who taught there or conducted lectures, such as David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and Justice Richard Goldstone who was nominated to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela.

As a result of my Oxford study, I had a blog published on the Oxford Human Rights Hub that explains how much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the impacts of FDV (http://bit. ly/2mQjquo).

I feel compelled to use my experience to help others and to ‘pay forward’ the kindness shown to me. From the worst time in my life, which resulted in deep depression, I can honestly say with God’s help and supportive family and friends, I have survived and endeavour to make my children proud of me; a living example of Eleanor Roosevelt’s words.

As such, since my return from Oxford I have been actively involved in advocating for human rights through a number of national organisations (on a volunteer basis) such as the LGBTI subcommittee of @Australianlawyersforhumanrights and The Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders. I have also completed the National Rural Women’s Coalition’s e-leaders Advocate & Influence Program with 19 other rural women selected from around Australia.

If you’ve been affected by FDV and/or have tips for establishing my program, or you would like to connect or collaborate with me, I would love to hear from you at:

Domestic Violence Support & Resources
– Family Relationships Advice Line: 1800 050 321 or
– 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
– Daisy App: Download on Google play or App Store
– Men’s Line Australia: 1300 789 978
– Lifeline: 131 114
– MoneySmart:
– White Ribbon:

Posted in bursary, Domestic Violence, education and training, Gender equality, inspirational, NSW Rural Women's Network, resilience, rural women, trauma | Leave a comment

Our journey continues…..

by Liane Corocher, Monkerai.
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

Living the life of a farmer certainly has its highs and lows. I have always thought this was the case through my career within the agricultural sector, but it has only really been in the last 18 months, since I bought a small farm with my husband and four sons, that I truly understand the highs and lows of being a farmer.


Liane Corocher and her family at their farm at Monkerai in the Hunter Region.

Lets start with the highs.

Our boys have developed a much greater understanding of where their food comes from and the process for creating it. They have been involved in raising our livestock, processing it or taking it to the abattoir and then gaining the satisfaction from eating the end product. Understanding the process to grow good food has helped them value the animal or plants more and has given them a desire to make the most of what we harvest.

Our eldest son has transitioned from high school to agricultural college and it has been great to see him pursue his interest and passion in agriculture, and do so well. Having the opportunity to apply his skills on the farm has been a fantastic opportunity and has placed him a good position to pursue whatever agricultural career he chooses.

We have moved into a fantastic rural community. This has completely surprised us, as our boys have friends on the neighbouring property (they even share the same first names which can be very confusing) and there are lots of young children in the area.

Our community is full of wonderfully kind and generous people who are willing to share ideas and are happy to help us in whatever way they can. Being able to share a beer with your neighbours on a Sunday afternoon, in a beautiful setting is certainly one of the highs.

Now, the lows.

It has certainly been a challenge. We greatly underestimated how much time and money
it would take to restore the farm to a productive state which includes rebuilding old infrastructure and increasing our livestock. We often find that we are one step behind with repairing fences and creating paddocks, and as we get one paddock fully fenced, another fence falls down and becomes the next ‘top’ priority on the growing priority list.

We have also developed a very good relationship with the local vet—probably too good a relationship! Increasing our jersey herd has meant we have faced every animal health issue imaginable including milk fever, raising calves, mastitis, retained placenta’s, liver fluke infestations etc. However, I am happy to report that during our latest vet visit, the vet reported that our jersey herd was one of the healthiest he had seen. We are also grateful to have a local dairy farmer as our ‘unofficial’ mentor who has helped us manage these issues.

In farming we often get side tracked by the physical and financial challenges of managing the farm. However, the social aspects and the people in the farming business is more important. One of our biggest lows over the last 18 months has been the challenge associated with having a young son with autism and the difficulties with gaining support and services in an isolated rural community. We have had major challenges with the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), school transport and gaining therapy for our son, which has placed a huge pressure on our family. However, after eight months we now have access to NDIS funding and our happy, healthy son is now getting some of the support he needs.

Even though there has been lots of highs and lows, I look at every experience as a stage in our journey. Our learning curve has certainly been a steep one, with the angle of the curve sometimes completely vertical, where we seemed to slip backwards faster than moving forward. However, when I think of resilience as being able to learn from adversity whilst still moving forward, I think we are not going too bad. Having a positive outlook has helped us look at our lows as learning opportunities, and I have developed some insights which may help others in a similar situation.

1. Find that special place on your farm that allows you to stop and admire the beautiful place you work in and get back to what is truly important. For us this is our river and the view over the valley from what we call ‘the old house site paddock’.

2. When things really turn to crap, you have a number of lows in a row and you find it hard to see the positives, then this is a sign that your need to have a break and get away from the farm. This will help ’empty your jug or mind’ to be able to think clearly again. Even a weekend away is helpful in this situation.

3. Take time to stop and celebrate everything you have achieved. When times get tough it is easy to focus on what’s going wrong, rather than what’s going right or what you haven’t done rather than what you have done, which can be the start of a downward spiral.

We still have a lot of work ahead, am I am sure many highs and lows to come. However, keeping things in perspective and taking time out to enjoy what we are doing is an important part of our farming journey.

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Families, mental health, NSW Rural Women's Network, resilience, rural resilience officer, Rural Support Workers, rural women, Transitioning | Tagged | 1 Comment

It’s not McLeod’s daughters: Support for young women working in the bush

As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

About 90 families living across Far Western NSW access education for their primary school aged children through Broken Hill School of the Air. Approximately half of them employ an educator/governess.


Govies’ getting the feel of some learning through play activities – an important part of the home classroom.

The role of ‘govie’ is traditionally one which attracts young women—often on a gap year having just finished school. They are a cohort of workers who can be inexperienced and vulnerable. Living within the family they facilitate care and deliver the educational program developed at School of the Air (SOTA).

Although SOTA organises a Home Tutors conference as an induction for new families, what can be overlooked during this get-together is specific support and information needed to ensure the emotional wellbeing, resilience and safety of the young women heading out to their new homes.

Ellen Day from the Rural Resilience Program (RRP) and Marie Kelly, the RAMHP Coordinator based in the Far West identified this need and in February of this year launched an innovative new event that would offer the support required and fill a gap in services to isolated farm families. With backing from SOTA Principal Kylie Green and her staff, in partnership with Far West In-Home Care and Governess Australia, they set out to deliver a workshop where governesses were provided with information on key topics to assist them with the transition to life in the bush.

Living remotely can be a huge mental, physical, and practical challenge. Have you ever driven on a dirt road? Can you change a flat tyre? Where can you go to for support when you are feeling overwhelmed? What do you do for entertainment when you live three hours away from the nearest town? These were just a few of the questions raised with the 32 participants of the workshop.

To thrive and support the families for the best possible outcome, a govie needs to maintain personal resilience. The workshop provided strategies for dealing with stress, maintaining good mental and physical health and practical tips for outback living.
The educators were also able to link with one another. ‘Dots on the map’ identified geographical synergies. The girls were encouraged to exchange phone numbers and email addresses so that everyone felt more connected.

Rural isolated families face unique challenges including financial hardship, extreme weather conditions and isolation. The ripple effect may mean these factors also impact on the govie and the classroom. The girls learnt to identify the signs that a person may be struggling with their mental health and how to find and provide help; as well as how to support each other.

Honest discussion and factual information enabled the young women to leave the workshop with a toolbox full of skills and strategies, and a better understanding and increased awareness of the challenges they may face.

The verbal feedback during and after the event indicated that educators hadn’t even considered some of the things discussed. The response to the workshop was positive and enthusiastic with women feeling more confident and better equipped to start their outback journey.

Some of the more experienced govies opened up and bravely shared their stories—some good and some bad—there was learning in every story. It was requested these sessions become a regular part of the annual Home Tutors Conference.

The govies felt supported and were appreciative of having the opportunity for discussions in a ‘safe’ place. Importantly, the training helped them to identify the value they bring to their families and their workplace.

According to Lee-Anne Bright, who initiated ‘Governess Australia’ and has over 20 years’ experience as a governess, the workshop was fantastic because it helped bring everyone together in a safe place and put faces to names.

‘The girls realised they were not alone and that self-care and communication skills were really important, as well as learning about safety issues in the bush and what skills would be helpful. Subsequent to the retreat, we followed up with the govies to talk about some of the issues and tips discussed including how to use mindfulness as a way of self-care. It was wonderful to see some of them having the courage and self-awareness to communicate with their employees about their roles and their feelings. We would really to see this workshop evolve and continue each year.’

The afternoon workshop ended with drinks and dinner, providing an opportunity to share stories and get to know one another. It may be months before some of these women meet again, and establishing a social connection is invaluable.

The facilitators are already discussing ideas and are planning to host this event next year. Feedback from Children’s Services Manager, Cobar Shire Council, Karen Lennon indicates that it was valued and highly beneficial.

‘The women and organisations involved were easy to work with and knowledgeable about the issues faced by govies,’ she said.

The workshop presented a unique opportunity for RAMHP and RRP to work in partnership providing much needed support to educators, governesses and employed home tutors. It was a great example of two organisations ‘connecting and collaborating’ for an outcome that changes community capacity and improves quality of life and business for our farm families and their workers.

More information:
m: 0427 639 761

Posted in Communities, education and training, NSW Rural Women's Network, Rural Australia, rural women | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A monument to Cathcart’s community spirit

by Ted O’Kane, Goulburn
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

If it were not for its eye catching lolly pink exterior and matching burgundy roof, the Cathcart War Memorial Hall might go unnoticed by travellers to the historic grazing and timber town, nestled high on the NSW south-coast escarpment.

Cathcart community committee President, Ryan (Fred) Simpson standing outside the Cathcart Hall

Cathcart community committee volunteer, Ryan (Fred) Simpson (President)

That failure would be a lost opportunity to experience one of the enduring but increasingly challenged notions of Australian bush life–the strength and power of shared community.

In contrast to many similar bush community halls, left stranded and forlornly awaiting patronage by rapidly changing rural demographics and a diminishing sense of common purpose, the Cathcart Hall stands as a monument to the pride and resilience of a community determined to not let the chill winds of change destroy one of the last legacies of its pioneering forebears.

For current generations, the hall is the town’s heart and focal point for a vibrant social calendar that includes weddings, wakes, birthday parties, balls, variety shows and much more. It also regularly hosts major district events, attracting visitors from across the county, providing the local community with the necessary funds to continually maintain and develop its most precious asset.

Efforts by the Cathcart community to maintain and develop the local Hall have honed the cooking skills of locals and spawned legendary tales of amazing catering feats. Feeding hordes of hungry adventurers has also funded an impressive and ongoing list of Hall improvements, which in turn attracts more travellers.

Cathcart Memorial Community Hall secretary, Jenni Moreing, recounts the greatest challenge when the village was on the route of the RTA Big Bike Ride around 15 years ago.

‘We were told to expect up to 500 riders for lunch but the weather turned cold and we ended up feeding over 1200 people. We had to raid every freezer and pantry in the town but no-one went hungry,’ she said.

The locals are well practised. One of the feature annual fundraisers with a 30 year plus history is the Cathcart Variety show which attracts talent from across the country, once featuring an opera singer. Dinner and supper is provided for 250–300 people with everyone from kids to seniors doing their bit.

Hosting a horse trail riding event was another major fundraiser, catering over two days for around 160 riders and up to 300 for the Saturday night festivities. Insurance and liability constraints have put an end to that event but the committee is planning to run an annual Team Sorting equine event in a paddock at the back of the Hall to maintain an income stream and attract visitors to the area.

In the past five years, locally generated funds have built a free standing toilet and shower block adjacent to the Hall to provide facilities for passing travellers and campers who can use the hall and surrounds. Recently, a Snowy Monaro Council grant upgraded the hall kitchen to commercial standard and further improvements to the external covered areas— used for weddings and parties—are planned.

‘It would be a very lonely, dark old town without the hall. I would hate to see Cathcart without it,’ committee president, Ryan (‘Fred’) Simpson, reflected.

‘The hall is the main focus of the community. If we didn’t have the hall, people would go their own way and travel to surrounding towns. We would have no reason to get together,’ committee secretary for the past 20 years, Jenni Moreing, added.

Once served by three hotels, a school, post office, a police station, two blacksmith shops and numerous small retail businesses, Cathcart now hangs on to just one general store. For everything else, it relies entirely on the hall and the plethora of activities generated by its determined and resilient citizens.

The strongly held association to a rich history by scores of local families is recorded in a
spectacular rock wall outside the hall. Atop the metre high wall are around 40 plaques telling the story of a particular pioneering family.  John Moreing proudly points to the story of his own forebears as he explains how the wall was funded by each family buying a space and providing the plaque.

With a roughly estimated population of 60–70, including numerous farmers on smaller blocks surrounding the village, the committee happily reports a tally of 25 to 30 workers at regular working bees. ‘Pretty much everyone in the town gets involved,’ Fred said. ‘Even the little kids (including his own) help out by setting tables and taking a turn at washing up. They are learning about their community responsibilities from early on.’

‘The history used to be just inside the hall but unless it was open, no-one could see it so we decided to make it a permanent record and available for all to see,’ he explained proudly.

Posted in Communities, Community Hero, resilience, rural women, Volunteering | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Country connection alive and well in younger generation

by Seona Cremasco, Country Education Foundation

As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

Living in the country you find so many connections weaved into daily life that sometimes are overlooked, underestimated and even forgotten. A friend helps you load the groceries, chop some wood or recommends you for a job. You shake hands and shout them a drink and it’s never spoken of again. This weave of helping hands can be put down to country life and that’s just the way people look after each other, or it can be thought of as something else. It can be put down to investing time and effort in your own community, no matter how big or small this effort is.

Country Education Foundation staff

Anna Ingold with Country Education Foundation’s chairman Paul Braybrooks (seated) and grants supervisor David Hain.

Anna Ingold is living proof of the country connection that is alive and well in the younger generations of rural and regional Australia. She is 24, living back in her home town of Cootamundra, working in the ag industry and giving back to the community that has helped her out.  She is actively helping to better the lives of young people in her community through the @cootamundraanddistrictcountryeducationfund.

This fund awarded Anna a community scholarship back in 2010 for her agriculture science studies at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga NSW. The Fund is one of 43 in the Country Education Foundation (CEF) network that spans four states.

CEF works to foster further education, career and personal development opportunities of rural youth through community based encouragement, support and financial assistance.

For Anna, her involvement within the CEF family stemmed from her own experiences. She wanted to show school leavers that community scholarships aren’t only about money, it’s also about networking and mentoring opportunities with other recipients and members from the organisation.

Anna says, ‘It gives the student a leg up into their future, and it creates a network between the recipients.

‘When I go into the schools I tell the students to look at it as a networking opportunity. I’ve got jobs not because of what I know, but who I know. I think the networking is the most valuable thing.’

For Anna, she has worked hard in her role, as a committee member and now secretary, to be approachable and accessible to Cootamundra’s youth.

‘I’ve made a Facebook page,’ Anna laughs.

Anna’s informal mentoring of the current students has seen some of the applicants reach out for advice and help.

‘I’ve had some of the students Facebook me and ask what’s the best thing for me to wear and what kind of questions are we going to be asked. Without giving too much away I tell them to simply be themself and to be open with what they are trying to do.

‘We also had a lot of older people on our committee going into the schools, however, the students weren’t listening saying it was boring. So they asked me to go in to the schools, and over the past two years the feedback from the students has been positive.

‘The students seem to relate to me and appreciate that I have recently gone to university, lived away from home and that I knows the ins and outs of the new life stage they are about to enter.’

Anna said the most rewarding thing about her role with the Cootamundra & District Education Fund is seeing school leavers bolstered by the confidence and belief the committee and community has in them.

‘It’s definitely a worthwhile thing to pursue. My favourite meeting of the year is when we choose the students. We give not based on how smart a student is or how sport they are—but on their needs and want of a good education. So I always tell the students to apply even when they may not think they will get it.’

Anna’s investment in her community and the future generation of CEF recipients is one many wouldn’t take so early in their careers, but her enthusiasm and passion for creating education and learning pathways for school leavers is evident. Her commitment to helping youth achieve their dreams and career goals strengthens not only her ties to Cootamundra, but the youths’ belief that their community backs and supports them.

More information
t:  1300 652 144

Posted in bursary, Community Hero, education and training, Grants and funding, Rural Australia, rural women, scholarships, Volunteering | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Building your Brains-trust

by Pip Job, Business & Social Resilience, Department of Primary Industries.
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’? Or how about ‘no one is greater than all of us’? When we come together as a collective, the power, ideas and energy we create is far greater than what we can generate on our own. Synergy is an extraordinary thing!

Pip Job sitting on verandah smiling

Pip Job is a Senior Project Officer with DPI’s Business & Social Resilience Program and heads up the @YoungFarmerBusinessProgram.

The concept of a brains-trust, in life, or business, is so important and we need to recognise that we will benefit greatly from bringing more minds to the table. There are many ways of building the brains-trust and a good way to consider it, is thinking of a tool-box. If a tradesman arrived at your home to fix a leaking tap and all they had in their toolbox was a screwdriver, you would be a little concerned about their ability to fix the tap properly.

This analogy applies to us in business, community and our personal lives. We need to build a toolbox which has lots of resources, tools and brains so that we can create solutions, or develop opportunities. By trying to deal with things on our own, we miss out on the opportunity which other brains can bring to us. Other brains can bring perspective, they bring creativity, they bring alternative views and they bring linkages to other opportunities or people.

So, what are some of the ways to build a brains-trust? In the corporate world, a brains trust is a small group of trusted peers whom you give permission to critique your ideas. Many successful business people make comment that it’s their brains-trust who have saved their business, or helped their business prosper and many comment they wish they had formed a brains trust from day one, rather than going it alone. The idea of a brains trust is not solely for the corporate world, so why not adopt it in your life and business.

Tips to help you form your brains-trust:

  • Look for diversity of thinking. The last things you want are people who think just like you. This is called group thinking and it is not healthy. Look for age, gender, race/culture, backgrounds, industries, etc. Diversity is proven to enhance outcomes.
  • Create an asking/giving environment. Everyone needs to be willing to help and share. Make sure it’s a win:win for everyone involved. This could be as simple as providing a nice lunch to being a paid function.
  • Make it an enjoyable experience when you bring the brains trust together. If it’s for business, than make sure it’s fun, but professional.

You can bring your brains trust together for brainstorming sessions, or it could be for one-on-one interaction when seeking counsel. Having some fun around a white board or with sticky notes and a few bottles of wine can be an enjoyable experience. When brainstorming, remember the rule that there is no such thing as a bad idea. Sometimes it’s the wild ideas which open doors, create opportunities or simply stimulate the creation of other ideas. Don’t debate ideas; just create them.

By collaborating with others, you will add richness to your life which is a gift. Use the idea of a brains trust to create solutions and generate opportunities. Have an abundance thinking mindset.

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Catching Dreams: From Bathurst to Nepal

by Deb Grivas Grivas, Wentworth Falls
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual

We’re sitting in the back of a taxi dangerously weaving through choking traffic on the dusty and chaotic streets of Kathmandu. I’m here volunteering with an organisation called the Mitrataa Foundation which is run by Australian woman Bec Ordish. I’m listening to her speak on her phone while I’m trying to distract my attention from the impending death I feel I may be facing with this taxi driver. Amongst the cacophony of car horns, street vendors and motorbikes, Bec’s voice is soothing and calming.

‘It’s OK darling, I know the exams are hard but you tried your best. I know … I know … It will be OK … remember to breathe … I understand…’

Bec is placating one of her ‘daughters’ who is distraught after receiving poor results in her preparation exams for the national exam. National exams are a big deal in Nepal and with over a 50 per cent failure rate, the pressure on students to pass is immense.

Deborah Grivas Image2Originally from Bathurst NSW, Bec has many ‘daughters’ and many ‘sons’ too. In fact, at last count she currently has over 200 children spread across various schools in the city of Kathmandu and surrounding districts. Mitrataa, among other things, helps house and educate under-privileged children by providing them with ‘Dream Catchers Scholarships’ which pays for their tuition and offers a life skills program and family support as required. Bec calls these children her ‘kids’ and her passion and dedication to improving their lives is evident in the way she speaks to them and about them.

‘Part of my job is to get to know each child.’

Bec is explaining to me what drives her to do such difficult and challenging work.
‘I believe every single person has a gift to offer the world. My job … my privilege … is to help them find that gift and help them set it free.’

Bec’s enthusiasm is palpable.

‘It’s the most incredible feeling … it’s that magic moment when someone starts to believe in him or herself. When they see that they can do it … that look in their eyes of possibility.’

Bec founded Mitrataa (meaning ‘friendship’ in Nepali) 17 years ago after a volunteering stint in Kathmandu. An intellectual property lawyer by profession, she was moved by the plight of one mother she met who showed up on the doorstep of a school every morning, begging for her son to attend. When Bec found out it would cost the equivalent of $300 Australian dollars to educate the boy for a year, she didn’t hesitate to offer to pay the fees for him.

Realising that such a small gesture could potentially change a life, Bec began raising money by rallying her friends and family. As word spread, more people made donations and by 2005 it became clear that running Mitrataa would require a fulltime commitment.

Bec eventually quit her job and moved to Kathmandu and has lived there ever since. She has since adopted two young Nepali girls who have grown into confident young women and are working beside her on a myriad of projects, including leadership training, community kitchens, community sustainability projects, teacher training, medical support programs, English programs in rural schools—all with the underlying goal to empower the Nepali people.

Nepal has a bevy of social and political problems including corruption and poverty that seeps its way into every aspect of life. Public education is inadequate and social injustices pervade. As a result, these children’s lives have been witness to more heartache than they should at their age. The devastation of the 2015 earthquake that rocked the country compounded the problems leaving many with a feeling of hopelessness and desperation.

‘I see my role as sharing the stories of the Nepali people. They want to be heard and they want people to know that things are hard for them but they don’t want our pity. They also want people to know how hard they are working to change things.

Many charitable organisations come to Nepal with great intentions to help but often perpetuate a sense of dependence. Mitrataa helps create the bridge to empower people—we are not working for them from above but with them to enable them to help themselves.’

Bec laughs when asked about Mitrataa’s vision for the future.

‘We want to work our way out of a job! By empowering these students and their families we hope to mentor them into finding solutions for themselves. At the end of the day, we need to build strong, supportive nurturing networks of ‘cheer squads’—individuals and schools and communities that can continue the work of inspiring, believing in and co-creating a thriving, flourishing Nepal.’

Bec’s phone rings again. It is another one of her ‘kids’ ringing to tell her about her exam results. This phone call is cheerier. She has passed all of her subjects. Bec nearly bursts with pride.

The taxi pulls up in front of a small school in the suburbs of Kathmandu. It’s a Sunday afternoon and we have gathered here to take part in one of the monthly ‘Dream Catcher’s’ sessions run by Mitrataa for the students and their families. We arrive a bit late and the session is in progress, run by one of Bec’s adopted daughters, Nimu. She is talking about preparing for winter and brainstorming ideas that might help everyone get through it.

Winter is a particularly difficult time in the city as food becomes scarce and the city is subject to long periods without electricity, and therefore no heating, lights or hot water, due to the government imposed load shedding. Fuel for cooking is expensive and hard to come by. Fresh water often runs dry due to poor government infrastructure. People get sick and medical help is insufficient and expensive.

Bec explains that the purpose of these Dream Catchers sessions is to network and collaborate and to build a sense of community among these poverty stricken families. Together they share in sorrows, joys and experience, to solution-find, to cry and laugh.
The discussion becomes overwhelming for one woman, a single mother of five. She can’t bare the thought of having to face another winter. She sobs uncontrollably. It is heartbreaking to witness. Bec moves close to her and quietly consoles her, nodding her head and gently stroking her arm as the woman weeps and shares her anguish. She later organises a food package and blankets be delivered to her and pays for the woman to visit a doctor.

The group share some stories and they brainstorm ways to overcome the difficulties of water shortages and lack of electricity and poor health. The mood lightens as ideas flow. Bec then gives each student a small solar charged lamp for them to use to study by when the electricity goes out, which often occurs for up to 12 hours a day during the winter season. The children smile as if it’s Christmas.

By the end of the meeting I’m emotionally exhausted and I’m aware that Bec and her staff run more than 10 of these meetings a month. In the taxi on the way back to my hotel, I ask Bec how she does it. How does she keep going in the face of all the heartache?
She ponders the question before answering, ‘As the Kenyan proverb goes, ‘Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable’. That’s the power of connecting and collaborating and that’s at Mitrataa’s heart.

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2017 female ambassador for ag show movement

As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual

Fourteen finalists competed for the title of The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl 2017. These young women were a mix of medical and business students, teachers, volunteers and science graduates. Their interests covered many diverse areas including free range farms, mental health in bush communities, sustainability and community gardens. Finalists are judged on their rural knowledge, ambition and genuine interest in their local community.

Twenty-four-year-old Maisie Morrow, from Merriwa, took out the title of The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl 2017, becoming an ambassador for rural NSW and the Sydney Royal Easter Show and an important role model for young women in agricultural communities.

Maisie Morrow RAS Showgirl

Maisie Morrow, The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl 2017

An Agronomist and Livestock Nutritionist for Landmark, Maisie grew up at Cassilis and studied Rural Science at the University of New England. She is the first ever Showgirl to represent Merriwa at the Sydney Royal.

Maisie is involved in the Cassilis Rural Fire Brigade, Merriwa Show Society, Merriwa Country Women’s Association, and the Scone Grasslands Society. She has ambitions to get involved in farming lobby groups and politics, to ensure Australia educates and supports the ageing farming population, and invests in technology to support the ‘green’ movement to meet world food demand.

Maisie’s interest in being a Showgirl was driven by her support of women in agriculture, emphasising their integral role in the industry both now and in the future.

What do you hope to achieve as The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl 2017?
I am passionate about recognising women’s involvement in agriculture and I am humbled and proud to be representing a movement that promotes young women in agriculture. I believe women are the key to thriving communities as we bring a different dimension to the ‘table’. I would like to use this powerful position as a rural ambassador to encourage women, especially young women, to engage in their communities and showcase the diverse opportunities that exist in rural NSW.

How has your involvement in the competition benefited you?
I have met some incredible people and made some wonderful friendships. The week spent at the Show was a very empowering experience being surrounded by such a diverse group of women, all championing agriculture in different ways.

Why do you think it is so important to raise awareness of rural and regional NSW?
Raising awareness of rural and regional NSW is essential for the economic sustainability of global primary industries. We are a key contributor in the food security discussion and we must maintain an active voice, so farmers and producers have a seat at the table.


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