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2008 Berriwillock WoFG

Participants at Berrwillock Women on Farms Gathering Wheat Farm Tour

Image: Participants at Berrwillock Women on Farms Gathering Wheat Farm Tour

Source: Museum Victoria

Date: 4-6 April, 2008.

Location: Berriwillock Public Hall.

Theme: Back to Basics: Women Opening the Gates to Agriculture. According to the Berriwillock Gathering Proceedings, "We have no fancy venues or the like, so we needed to let everyone know they were going to be in for a good, basic country weekend. It was also the aim to show everyone that you don't need to have all the fancy stuff and trimmings to be able to have a great function."

Icon: Model Farm Gate

Highlights: Berriwillock is a very small township of less than 100 inhabitants and the local organising committee aimed to keep the Gathering "basic" by drawing on their local talent. According to the Berriwillock Gathering Proceedings, "Our aim for the Gathering weekend was to give everyone a country style get-together, using our local community groups as much as possible." Showcasing the local community and drawing on local talent has been an abiding feature of the Women on Farms Gatherings since the inaugural 1990 Gathering, and the Berriwillock Gathering certainly kept to this theme, with all of the events and presentations being drawn from the local area.

During the Official Opening ceremony, representative of the local Buloke Shire Robyn Ferrier was invited to open the Model Farm Gate, which was created by a local school teacher. Committee member and local farmer Denita Donnan took on the role of MC and entertained guests over the weekend with her impression of the Australian celebrity Dame Edna. The guest speakers for the Berriwillock Gathering were also all drawn from the local area. Local resident Glenys Richard, for example, spoke of the hardships of being a single female farmer after tragically losing her husband and father to a farming accident. Sad and moving, the candid and personal stories of local women were a highlight of the Berriwillock Gathering, with one participant reflecting that "the stories were so captivating that we couldn't leave."

As well as the speeches, the majority of the tours and workshops were delivered by locals and the Saturday night dinner included entertainment and dancing delivered by a local bush band. This was very well received by Gathering participants, with one guest reflecting that "I loved the fact that you used local talent, even those on the committee, for entertainment, both singing and comedy." Another highlight of the Berriwillock Gathering were the morning teas, which consisted of tables and tables of homemade cakes and sandwiches. This was complimented by the homemade "goodie bags", which were individually sewn so that everyone could take home "their own unique bag to treasure" (Berriwillock Gathering Proceedings, 1998).

On the final day of the Gathering, the customary ecumenical service or Tai Chi were offered and then followed by more women's stories. This was followed by the official 'handover' ceremony, whereby the Gathering was passed on to the committee for the following year's Gathering - the 2009 Warragul Gathering.

Tours: Wycheproof (Mountaineering on the World's Smallest Mountain), Innovation, Development and Sustainability, Equine Delight, From Seed to Silo, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Take Your Breath Away, Ladies Day, Culgoa on the Calder.

Workshops: Singing for Fun, Ideas for Entertaining Children and Grandchildren, Gentle Exercise, Art of Good Coffee Making, Stress Relief Massage, Cards, Chinese Therapist, Croquet, Computer and Internet Tips, Péntanque, Succession Planning, Healthy Label Reading, Fencing, Mosaics, Bowls, Digital Photography, Native Trees and Planting, Scrapbooking, Line Dancing, Beads, Healthy Eating, Basic Mechanics.

Reflections:

"When we arrived in Berriwillock I couldn't imagine why people would want to live there - dust, the dry brown paddocks and the stunted Mallee trees. In two days, we were shown a different set of values and learned how these resilient people keep their community spirit alive, while waiting for the rain." Anonymous, Berriwillock Gathering Proceedings, 2008.

"From the Friday night to Sunday, the weekend was full of excellent workshops, tours and guest speakers... The tour I selected was called 'Seed to Silo' and everything was so well arranged. We were taken out to an 8000 acre crop farm, driven around and shown the different results of farming techniques. An agronomist explained the soils to us and answered any questions." Joan Templar, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2008.

"What a great Gathering - Back to Basics. This Gathering was pure Mallee country hospitality and ingenuity. A town of 80 putting on an event for almost 300 people was mind-boggling. The entertainment could have been from decades ago and very enjoyable with singing, dancing and comedy. I loved to see the local men helping out their womenfolk by cooking, bar tending, setting up etc. The committee had thought of every little detail." Hilary Steenholdt, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2008.

"It is important for rural people in these times of crippling drought to be able to meet each other, to discuss and share problems and to support one another. It was really important to hear the stories of the women who have faced great adversity and survived." Name withheld, Berriwillock Gathering Proceedings, 2008.

Related Stories:

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

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