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1999 Warragul WoFG

Speaker at the 1999 Warragul Women on Farms Gathering

Image: Speaker at the 1999 Warragul Women on Farms Gathering

Source: Museum Victoria

Date: 30 April- 2 May, 1999

Location: West Gippsland Arts Centre, Education Centre and Shire Offices, Warragul.

Theme: Celebrating Success from Challenge. According to the Opening Address given by Warragul Organising Committee member and chairperson Maureen Hall, "We're not only here to celebrate success from challenge, but also to celebrate ten years of WoFG making a difference to the lives of farming women."

Icon: Farm Work Boot

Highlights: Being the 10th Anniversary of Victorian Women on Farms Gatherings, the 1999 Warragul Gathering was a landmark event. In celebration of this decade of achievement, the Gathering was held once again in the West Gippsland town of Warragul - the site of the first Gathering. A special commemorative 'Country Spirit Quilt' was created by five local women - Jan Slater, Margaret Gray, Margaret Roots, Quentin O'Keefe and Pauline Matthews - and hung in foyer of the Warragul Arts Centre. As participants registered for the Gathering on the Friday afternoon, they were able to view the quilt and reflect on the rich history of the Gatherings.

On the Friday evening, six women addressed the audience about their lives and their connection to rural life. Noela Black, for example, spoke of the many hardships she faced in the 1980s -including the loss of her husband and son coupled with the drought and rural downturn. Despite these setbacks, Noela refused to sell the farm and continued farming. Another important occasion was the Memorial Plaque dedication to Rhonda Weatherhead, who passed away in August 1998. Local Gathering member Marie Harding spoke of Rhonda as "the one who introduced me and many others in this room to the Women on Farms and I, like many others, miss this lady greatly." Museum Victoria's Senior Curator Liza-Dale Hallett also told her story, and reminded the audience that their own farming heritage could potentially have a place in a museum, where people from both city and country could learn about "how essential farming is to our lifestyles and futures." The keynote speaker for the Warragul Gathering was agricultural businesswoman Christina Hindhaugh, who spoke on the Saturday morning about discovering new ways to adapt to change and to achieve 'success from challenge.' Following her talk, everyone was invited outside to see the release of 10 pigeons - each one representing one of the previous Gathering locations. An announcement was made as each pigeon arrived home.

The rest of the Saturday morning and afternoon was dedicated to workshops and tours. Ranging from gourmet cheese tastings at Tarago River Cheese Co to lessons about the Internet held in the Education Centre, Saturday's workshops and tours proved to be popular among Gathering participants. Following a busy day of activities, entertainment was provided at the celebration dinner where students who had been sponsored to attend the Gathering spoke of what they had planned for their futures. The night was filled with plenty of laughter and talking. On the Sunday morning, motivational speaker Lynn Champion reminded women to "love who you are and what you are." The handover ceremony was carried out and following this ceremony, women were each given a balloon to blow up and let fly around the room. Ending on an uplifting note, the Gathering was officially closed and Gathering participants looked forward to the next year's Gathering - the 2000 Yarra Valley (Healesville) Gathering.

Tours: 'Tour One - Tarago River Cheese Co and Alpine Trout Farm', 'Tour Two -  Truleen Downs Alpaca Stud and Harding's Apple and Pear Orchid, Pakenham', 'Tour Three - Bonlac Factory Tour, Darnum Park', 'Tour Four - Rowse Bros Flower Farm, Ellinbank Gardens.'

Workshops: There were over thirty workshops held at the Warragul Gathering. Some of the highlights included: Indigenous Foods, Women's Health, Defeating Depression, Pastel Art, Small Business, Massage, Calving and Lambing, Pasture Nutrition and Farm Welding.

Reflections:

"I have only missed one Gathering - the 1st at Warragul. My friend Rhonda Weatherhead introduced me to WOF. I am forever grateful - sadly Rhonda died of cancer in 1999. I have met so many farming ladies that I now consider to be my friends, they are such a diverse lot of energetic, interesting, down to earth women. I am one of the few fruit growers and I can swap stories and experiences about our farming venture no matter where the farms are in Victoria. I find it interesting to see what other farming women - call their farm. I was on the organising committee for the 10th Gathering at Warragul and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. I wouldn't miss the Gathering for quids - especially the women's stories." Marie Harding, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2004.

"This was my first Gathering and to me it was very well organised. I particularly remember the church service which Lyn Johnson helped to organise. We had a stone which represented the worries and difficulties and we put it in a basket to leave behind and chose a flower to go forward." Margot Colson, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2004.

"My first Gathering was at Warragul 1999. I had just retired and thought it was time to get to know local women. WOF was a great introduction to many aspects of life in the area. Since then I have been to all except one Gathering and have always come home with something that has inspired me to try something new or learn about something or to laugh and enjoy things! The women's stories are so courageous and inspiring." Caroline Gully, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2005.

"I had made some good friends through the monthly meetings and was keen to attend a Gathering. This was my first Gathering. I also became treasurer. The local women's stories were an eye opener, as it made me aware of how hard it has been for women to become recognised in a farming work place. I watched as the pieces were created for the quilt, and was amazed when I saw all the pieces assembled. It was beautiful. I did a welding workshop and knew that it would never be a skill that I would master! This was the first of many gatherings that I would attend." Rosa Wedmore, Reflection, 2011.

Related Stories:

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

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