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1995 Swan Hill WoFG

Digital Image - Nursery Tour, Women on Farms Gathering, Swan Hill  1995

Image: Digital Image - Nursery Tour, Women on Farms Gathering, Swan Hill 1995

Source: Museum Victoria

Date: 28-30 April, 1995.

Location: Swan Hill Secondary College

Theme: As Many We Are We Are One. This is the name of a song especially written for the Swan Hill Gathering. According to the Gathering Proceedings, "it was written to encourage unity among the diversity of Australian Women, and to achieve our goals for the future, we must work as one." The last verse is as follows: " Let our voices ring together, giving strength to everyone, May your spirit live forever, Aussie women we are one."

Icon: Cap, Mallee Root, Stone.

Highlights: The Swan Hill Gathering featured two keynote speakers - one of them being the well-known author Bryce Courtenay, who spoke about the importance of having a dream. "Nothing happens without a dream and dreams are not intended for other people, they're intended for you", he argued. According to the Swan Hill Gathering Proceedings, Bryce Courtenay claimed at the start of his speech that when he was born, his mother was visited by a witch doctor who told her that Bryce would be a rainmaker. On the final day of the Gathering, the rain came down in torrents following considerable drought! In the hope that this rain would continue, a 'rain dance' was organised during the Saturday night dinner, and led by locals Elaine Paton and Helen Morris. Strangely enough, 2005 ended up being a year of increased rainfall and the Swan Hill Gathering Proceedings reflected on this by stating: "never underestimate the power of a women to wring tears from heaven!"

The other Keynote Speaker for the Swan Hill Gathering was Maree McCaskill, CEO of Australian Publishers Association, who urged delegates to become better communicators because "women by nature and by biology and as a natural result are generally better communicators." Maree stressed how important it was for rural women to use their voices and make themselves both heard and seen in business and politics.

Apart from these two powerful speakers there were also several local women who told their stories - Jan Brady, Nancy Tripcony and Ivy Bell. Indigenous woman Ivy Bell started life on an Aboriginal Mission in New South Wales but had been part of the Swan Hill community for many years. She spoke briefly about what was happening for the wider Aboriginal community and extended an invitation to participants of the Gathering "to talk to us, the Aboriginal participants of this gathering and take the opportunity to really get to know us". Several Indigenous women attended the Swan Hill Gathering, including a group of Ngarrindjeri women from South Australia who helped to run some of the Indigenous workshops such as 'Traditional Aboriginal Food Fibre and Healing Plants.' Bryce Courtney also acknowledged the Aboriginal Community during his speech saying that "there was one blot, one terrifying blot on our copy book, and that is our darling, our brilliant and our beautiful aboriginal people. We have let them down, but it is not too late." According to an evaluative survey that was conducted at the end of the Gathering, the participation of Indigenous women was a highlight alongside the keynote speakers, the women's stories, the farm tours and the Saturday night dinner. During the Gathering, a special session titled 'the next WoFG' was also held, and women from the Ararat region offered to host the following year's Gathering - the 1996 Ararat Gathering.

Tours: Aboriginal Community Market Garden (Hydroponics) and Foots Rice, Dickenson's Organic Vineyard and Orchard, Jones' Rotary Dairy and Research Farm, Grant's Emus and Buffalo, Foley's Plant Nursery and Herb Garden, Flemming's Citrus Nursery, Moar's Cereal Legumes and Lyna's Fine Wool.

Workshops: Women in Small Business Management, Waterwise Gardening, Koori Women Mean Business, Astrology, Women's Ceremonies and Rituals, Communicating with Confidence, Farmcheque, Business Intuition - Learning Confidence, Chemical Safety, Trim Lamb - Cut it, Cook it, Fruit Trees, Wardrobe on a Budget, Safer Living Skills, Communicating in Relationships, Blue Green Algae, Tapestry, Celebrating Being Big, Obtaining Funding - Submission Writing, Traditional Aboriginal Food Fibre, What Constitutes the Price Paid to Dairy Farmers.

Reflections:

"I have been to all 15 Gatherings and loved them all. Have great memories from them all. Swan Hill when 300 women chanted with Bryce Courtenay and made it rain. The lecturer on Aboriginal matters workshop didn't turn up, so a group of Aborigines took the class. We learnt much from a great group of women that we normally wouldn't get a chance to talk to. Loved the real farming women stories." Participant Sharon Nicita

"As a Ngarrindjeri woman from SA, I felt good because at first I thought it was just for farmers, but realised we have so much in common. Good to share parts of our culture with such a diversity of women." Anonymous, Swan Hill Proceedings, 1995

"The first Gathering [I attended] at Swan Hill blew me away with the story of the 'stone soup' and the stories from local farm women, and a lot of fun with a river boat trip and an enlivening talk from Bryce Courtenay. I trained as a Speech Pathologist. I was used to going to Conferences with a lot of women, but they were all SERIOUS professional conferences. Women on Farms seem to be going through a process of 'coming out' and finding their identity. The Gatherings are occasions of 'conferring' as part of that search for identity and fortunately there is a very healthy all round approach to a woman's professional life on the farm which considers more than just the business. The joy of the Gatherings is seeing the same faces, and catching up with old and meeting new people. It is fascinating to see how each Gathering has its own life and many facets resulting from the characters and interests of the Committee." Participant Drusilla Green.

Songs:

1995 Swan Hill - 'As Many We Are One'
1995 Swan Hill - 'I Was Thinking Over Old Times'

Related Stories:

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

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