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1991 Sea Lake WoFG

Workshop at the 1991 Sea Lake Women on Farms Gathering

Image: Workshop at the 1991 Sea Lake Women on Farms Gathering

Source: Museum Victoria

Date: 6-8 April 1991.

Location: Sea Lake.

Theme: An Evolving Voice.

Icon: Banner. The banner was identified as the first 'icon' for the Women on Farms Gatherings, and was created at the Sea Lake Secondary College by the Year 11 and 12 students. The organisers wanted to create something that could be handed on to the following Gatherings.

Highlights: The women from the Mallee who travelled to the first Women on Farms Gathering in Warragul (in 1990) were inspired to organise another the following year in Sea Lake. Following a similar format to the Warragul Gathering, the Sea Lake Gathering was held over a weekend and attracted approximately 130 women from around the state of Victoria. Visitors to this Gathering marvelled at the strength and determination women from this region showed in the face of ongoing drought and the rural downturn. During the Saturday afternoon, an optional tour to a wheat farm gave women the opportunity to witness a local farming enterprise, and speak with local farmers about the hardships they were enduring. Due to the economic downturn and ongoing drought, the wheat farmers could not afford to purchase the necessary equipment for the tilling of the paddocks, and subsequently they were forced to burn the wheat stubble. According to the Sea Lake Gathering Proceedings, this tour was a highlight and it was decided that future Gatherings should "integrate farm tours as focal points of the Gathering." Ever since, tours have continued to be a major feature of the Victorian Women on Farms Gatherings.

Another highlight of the Sea Lake Gathering was the keynote address that was delivered on the Saturday night by National President of the Country Women's Association, Jean Tom. Jean spoke about how rural women have the power to make a difference in state and federal politics: "The more people you can get walking down the road with you, holding hands and saying the same thing to government together", she argued, "the more likely that we are to get them to listen to what rural women have to say." Further illuminating this theme, a workshop titled "Politics and Lobbying" was run by farmer Cathy McGowan. Women listened to Cathy argue that "lobbying and politics is about change and creating change... recognise the skills you have used or developed and the awareness you have raised by having a go."

One of the explicit aims of the Sea Lake Gathering was to "enable women to go back to their communities and families with increased knowledge of the resources that can be accessed", and the workshops and speeches certainly achieved this aim. According to an evaluation survey that was conducted at the end of the Gathering, "the response of the participants was overwhelming positive and indicated that the skills, knowledge and experience gained would be put into practice in their own enterprises, families and communities." By the Gathering's end, enthusiasm was expressed by three different regions to hold the 1992 Numurkah Gathering, as well as the 1993 and 1994 Gatherings!

Tours: There was one tour offered at the Sea Lake Gathering - a tour to a local wheat farm.

Workshops: Enterprising Ventures, Chemical Awareness, Women's Health, Farming Partnerships/Succession, Conservation and Environmental Issues, Politics and Lobbying, Practical Workshop, Personal Development, Transitions in Women's Lives.

Reflections:

"Hearing the Women's stories of this dry flat country, how they are trying to survive the drought, to keep their families and farms together, it just brought a tear to many an eye. I came home so thankful for our green hills and grass. The women there gave us a warm wonderful weekend." Participant Beryl Taylor, Nar Nar Goon (East Gippsland), in Sea Lake Gathering Proceedings, 1991.

"Gatherings have a strong voice and a strong influence. But you, the women who are here at this Gathering, have to use that voice and use that influence. You come here, learn, share and absorb information, meet with other women. But you also need to take home what you learn and use the information and the contacts and share with those not able to be here." Keynote Speaker Jean Tom in Sea Lake Gathering Proceedings, 1991.

"I was overcome by the constant feeling of kinship at the Gathering, even though I had never seen most of you before?" Participant Carmel M. La Fontaine, Sea Lake Gathering Proceedings, 1991.

Related Stories:

History of Victorian Women on Farms Gatherings
Victorian Women on Farms Gathering Collection

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