Passion, inspiration, learning, laughter, friendship and empowerment… were on the program at this year’s Rural Women’s Gathering held in Walcha this past weekend. 3 great days of excitement, connection and culture were shared with 219 attendees gathered in the high country.
A jam-packed program was full of captivating speakers, educational workshops, interesting tours, fresh local cuisine, community group hospitality and musical entertainment. This is the 27th NSW Rural Women’s Gathering to be held. The annual event is organised by dedicated local committees each year, supported by the Rural Women’s Network.
Despite a challenging drought and a heart-breaking season, the Walcha committee flocked together to create a natural high reflecting their environment, location, history and culture. Ironically, Walcha is renowned for “where wild rivers run”… but the big dry had put a stop to that. Nevertheless, a wonderful committee ensured the beauty remained in their environment through the town’s artworks, culture and welcoming friendly faces that surrounded us.
The Hon. Adam Marshall MP, officially opened the NSW Rural Women’s Gathering (RWG) and launched the 2019 Hidden Treasures Honour Roll which celebrates women volunteers who give so much to their rural communities. It was wonderful to recognise a few names on the list this year. Two ladies that I know personally, I want to make mention of, as they inspire me in their communities.
The beautiful bubbly personality of Mary Hollingworth from Guyra (formerly Glen Innes) was recognised as a valuable volunteer for more than 35 years. She is renowned for her involvement with the Glen Innes Celtic Festival and many community organisations. Mary never ceases to amaze me with her infectious smile, love for life and her encouragement of others. She also seems to have a knack of persuading people to hit the dance floor with her (thanks Mary!).
The kind-hearted generous likes of Sue-Ellen Wilkin from Moore Creek near Tamworth. A strong amazing woman that started a charitable food pantry for drought-stricken farmers at Tamworth and Murrurundi. The charity is called Doing It For Our Farmers and is run by a group of tireless volunteers. Sue-Ellen has a heart full of passion and care for the farming community. Her charity is a valuable support network for farmers and local primary producers.
Guest Speakers were inspiring in their own unique ways and an interested audience was captivated in the information they shared, the laughter they inspired and challenging stories they could relate to.
A local Walcha sheep and cattle producer, Sonia O’Keefe, kept the audience captivated with her inspiring outlook and positive attitude. She shared her story with her down-to-earth personality and simple, yet empowering philosophy in life.
A leading lady in musical theatre, cabaret, screen and radio, Amanda Muggleton, kept us entertained with her unique style, passion, humour and extroverted persona. She has just joined the cast of Home and Away, as Robbo’s on-screen mum Wendy. She amazed us all with her wit, enchanting personality, performing ability and provocative versatility.
Fun and laughter all-round when she performed the segment called Laugh Out Loud with Amanda Muggleton, alongside 4 talented committee members. Interestingly, she was not just a guest speaker and performer at this event, but she attended the weekend with us all. Her friendly involvement, love for life and encouragement of others is very inspiring.
Grazier, author and Walcha Councillor, Jen Kealey, spoke of her passion in the rural community, charity work and resilience. Walcha local and organising committee member, Anna Barwick, shared her unique story, her Showgirl journey and her success in life with heartfelt passion as a health advocate.
Janelle Archdale shared the inspiration of her time as the first female Mayor of Walcha and now runs her boutique-style fashion, homewares and giftware store called Paperdolls House. Angus stud breeder, Erica Halliday, gave us an insight into women in the boardroom with her casual yet intelligent demeanor.
Wool producer, Jules Cordingley, spoke about merino wool, quality yarn and her woollen fashion company. Jo Palmer, a successful business woman and the winner of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Awards told her story of connecting people to remote work opportunities.
Sister Jan O’Grady from Open Support gave us valuable information on accessing health care services in Sydney and how Country Care Link transport services can assist the rural community when at their most vulnerable. My dear friend, Sonia Fingleton went on to explain how she manages the beautiful Chisholm Cottage, like a home away from home, so that rural people can access major Hospitals and health services in the city affordably and with a network of support around them.
Local graziers and earthmoving contractors, Peter and Suzanne O’Keefe, shared their heartfelt real-life story when he became a burns victim in a terrible farm explosion accident. Against all odds, Peter survived this accident, 59 days in an induced coma and 32 surgeries later. They both shared their own perspective of what happened and how they handled such adversity in their lives. I shed tears listening to their amazing strength and how they coped. Peter now inspires other burn victims during their recovery period. Amazing speakers, leaving not a dry eye in the room. Very inspiring!
The dedicated Walcha RWG Committee offered an abundance of local artists to display their creative artworks in a Pop-Up Art Show. Local quilters displayed their talent in numerous eye-catching colourful quilts. Local market stalls provided a beautiful selection of giftwares, luxury items for the lady and unique creations during the weekend for sale. Service providers were also in attendance to share advice and assistance wherever possible.
A variety of interesting and empowering workshops were organised with a magnitude of varying subjects. Not surprisingly, I chose to do 2 writing workshops with Author John Heffernan. Sometimes we must challenge ourselves, try new things and stretch our imagination… you just never know what you may truly be capable of.
Friday night we were entertained by the musical ability and incredible voice of 16 year-old Hattie Oates from Tamworth. A soulful voice well beyond her years where we danced to pitch-perfect tunes.
Saturday night, a blanket of white filled the marquee with a beautiful White Dinner @ Altitude. Guests dressed in white clothing, enjoyed beautifully presented platters before them and enjoyed a local Fleece to Fashion Parade. Followed by non-stop entertainment with the fun-loving party band Memphis Moovers.
All night, we kicked up our heels, leaving all reservations behind, and enjoyed music from the 50’s to the 00’s… from Elvis to Lady Gaga. The Memphis Moovers returned Sunday for a fabulous musical finale. A song was written and performed with the RWG attendees… the singers, the dancers and the clappers.
A wonderful, inspirational, motivating weekend that has once again given me direction, time-out and a vision in my own life. I am already looking forward to next year’s Rural Women’s Gathering to be held in Forbes.
The best part was catching up with familiar faces that I had met at previous RWG events. It just feels like I have known these women for so much longer. Great friendships have formed and a network of support is so relevant. We all need a little girl-power, female support, uplifting souls to empower us… and this is the rural women’s event to do this.
Take care, Karen.
“When women support each other
incredible things happen.”
~ Author Unknown.