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2007 Shepparton WoFG

Shepparton Women on Farms Gathering, 2007

Image: Shepparton Women on Farms Gathering, 2007

Source: Museum Victoria

Date: 18-20 May 2007.

Location: Park Lake Convention Centre, Shepparton

Theme: Rural Women on the Mooove. The local committee chose this theme to represent Shepparton's 'moooving' art exhibition - a permanent, moving exhibition that was set up by the City of Greater Shepparton in 2002 and features 3D, life-sized statues of cows being placed around the township of Shepparton. These cows represent Shepparton's strong dairy industry.

Icon: Wooden bowl, Twine and Stone.

Highlights: The 2007 Shepparton Gathering celebrated resilience and difference in a time of great physical challenge with drought having been an abiding feature. Expressions of women's camaraderie and support for one another were demonstrated in abundance as friendships were made and renewed at every turn. The workshops offered something for all tastes. Some activities, just for fun, were balm to the hardworking women on farms and lots of laughter abounded. Belly dancing, yoga, tai-chi and fashion colour consulting were a few of the diversions on offer. For the more serious, words from renowned historian Janet McCalman enthralled parched minds looking for something beyond the day to day work schedule.

The activity choice was wide and varied, and the Shepparton region was showcased through the diverse tours that were on offer. Wines, cheese, olives, lavender and of course fruit growing were just a few of the treats to be enjoyed. The German War Cemetery and War Time Camp Museum presented a stark reminder of the Second World War and the complexities it presented for the community at that time. And for those bargain hunters amongst the group it was a great chance to visit the Shepparton Co-Op for great tinned fruit from the region to take home. The guest speakers were also a highlight. On the Friday night, several prominent local women took to the stage to share their life stories. Lavender farmer Cheryl Hammer, for example, spoke about the importance of community in rural Australia and the "sense of belonging, identity and affiliation with other women who live in a rural area."

At the Saturday night gala dinner the Hon Joan Kirner (Victorian ex-Premier) launched the Women on Farms Gathering website to a very appreciative audience. She reminded the audience about the importance of women's history, and reflected on the special place of the Victorian Women on Farms Gathering Collection in Australia's wider history. This was followed with performances by local women from many backgrounds, who provided entertainment with humorous skits, traditional dances and tom foolery. On the Sunday morning, the customary ecumenical service was on offer, as well as Tai Chi. This was followed by more women's stories and then concluded with the traditional 'handover' ceremony, where the Gathering was passed on to the committee for the following year's Gathering - the 2008 Berriwillock Gathering.

Tours: Goulburn River Ranges (Murchinson Wines and Vassoler Cheese), Green Dale Olives, Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum, Dookie Hills Region (Dookie College Winery and Cellar Door and Woodlands Estate Lavender Farm), Horticulture Tour (Campbell's Soup Factory Outlet, EastField Orchards and Valley Fruit Producers), Shepparton Barmah Road (Goulburn Valley Wastewater Management, Fairley Downs Historical Homestead, Shepparton Distilleries, Lower Goulburn Floodplain Rehabilitation Project), Farm Gate Trail Tour (Aintree Almonds, Locheilan Farmhouse Cheese, Eddy's Buffalo Family Farm Produce Store and Monichino Wines).

Workshops: Indigenous Gardens, Aquamoves, Sushi Making, Pasta Making, Climate Change, My Story, Belly Dancing, Yoga, Jewellery Making, The Chat Room, Waterwise Gardening, Belly Dancing, Fashion Colour Consultant, Tai Chi, Refugees, Dare to Dream, Retirement Planning, Menopause the Natural Way.

Reflections:

"This was my first Women on Farms Gathering. I don't have a farming background but do live in a farming community. I was amazed at this group of hard working, cheerful and resourceful women. The impression that I got was that there was nothing that these women wouldn't or couldn't do - with humility and a smile. Some had obviously been having a hard time on the land but were at the gathering to debrief, learn and break out of themselves for a while. I thought that the WOF Gathering provided a wonderful opportunity to do it all. I was very interested to hear Janet McCalman speak and she didn't disappoint me and I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as the Hon. Joan Kirner, who was both interested and interesting. I really enjoyed the visit to the German Cemetery although it hadn't been my choice ( last to register) - as it reminded me of the terrible toll that war imposes on everyone - winners and losers all. The weather was bitterly cold, but not as cold as the graves of those young German men. At the Museum following the Cemetery, we were rewarded with the best Vanilla Slice ever, following a more than full monologue about the camps history by a very dedicated speaker. My abiding memory for the event was one of admiration for women in the farming community". Fiona McLennan, Reflection, 2011.

"My first gathering was Warragul - No 1. I have been to all the gatherings and have special memories for them all. I have met some wonderful women. Approximately 10 years ago a lady I met from Ouyen rang to offer us a load of hay. They had heard that we were in drought. It was a great tour yesterday to a Flower Farm with wine and cheese - I learned heaps". Sharon Nicita, Memory Sheet Reflection 21st May, 2007

"The Keynote speakers (Womens Health and Lifeline) were excellent at Shepparton. Connecting with women from rural communities is uplifting and inspiring. Includes some very inspiring leaders who do real things to benefit their communities and aren't (male) ego driven". Ilse Mathews, Memory Sheet Reflection, 6th April 2008

Related Stories:

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

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