Date: 4-6 April, 1997.
Location: Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE.
Theme: Over the Fence - Across the World. Fittingly, participants at this Gathering came not only from around Victoria but also from Denmark, Scotland, New Zealand, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales.
Icon: Computer Motherboard
Highlights: Following registrations on the Friday afternoon, participants of the Bendigo Gathering were entertained on the Friday night by two women's stories and a keynote address by 1996 Victorian Woman of the Year Lola Miller. Focusing on the Gathering's theme, 'Over the Fence - Across the World', Lola argued that rural women have unique qualities (e.g. determination, resilience) and that these qualities become more pronounced when travelling. She then urged all rural women to continue with their efforts in volunteerism and hard work. On the Saturday morning, the 1996 Bendigo Gathering was officially opened with a speech by the Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Patrick McNamara. Reflecting on the importance of Gatherings for rural Victoria, he argued that "rural women make a vital contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of our communities" and that "this is becoming more evident as the farming sector is faced with change." This address was followed by a keynote speech by farmer and wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Judy Brewer-Fischer. Judy provided a detailed overview of the rural women's movement in Australia, and located the Victorian Gatherings in the context of this movement.
Women were then invited to listen to two women's stories, and then to embark on a day of tours and workshops. According to the Bendigo Gathering Proceedings, the tours were a highlight of the Gathering. The tour on revegetation, for example, was a "jam-packed, very informative tour" that was praised for providing an "interesting insight into horticulture alternatives." Feedback on the workshops was also positive, with women reflecting that they learnt a lot from the technical workshops such as "Introduction to Farm Computing", and that they had a lot of fun in the more creative workshops such as "Felt Making." On the Saturday night, women dined on local farm products and wines and were entertained by the Bendigo Youth Choir. The ABC Rural Women's Forum was also hosted by Alison Rodgers of ABC Radio and Helen Morris of the Sidney Myer Fund, and included a panel of regional winners of the Rural Women's Award.
On the Sunday morning, Marilyn Waring - an international speaker, farmer and environmentalist from New Zealand - gave a keynote address. She spoke about 'women in agriculture' from an international perspective, unveiling stories about rural women in developing countries and demonstrating that in many cases, women are the lynchpin of agriculture. This keynote speech was followed by two women's stories before the Gathering was officially closed with the Closing Ceremony. Women left the Bendigo Gathering refreshed, enthused and excited about the following year's Gathering - the 1998 Ouyen Gathering.
Workshops: Floral Arrangements, Caring for Yourself, Trying a Makeover, Felt Making, Finding the Funds, Through the Nose, Think Tank for Smart Ag, Cooking with Pork, Introduction to Farm Computers, Farm Software Packages, Internet, Business Planning, Ladders, Circles and Bridges, Planning for the Future, Mrs Farm Fixit, Welding, Crutching, Getting to Know Asian Markets, Cooking with Lamb, Making Men Marvellous, Calf Rearing, Stop Procrastination Now, Suicide Awareness, Positive Shopping Action, Employer Rights and Responsibilities.
"I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend. It really was going over the fence and across the world as I knew no-one before I came. I met so many nice people, gained a lot of skills and a better awareness of rural life-style. Thank you very much!" Anonymous, Bendigo Gathering Proceedings, 1997.
"My one and only time away from the family all year and it is spent with a fantastic lot of people; even if you have never met them before - they are on your wave-length." Anonymous, Bendigo Gathering Proceedings, 1997.
"I enjoyed the caring, sharing and confidentiality of the women in our wonderful country. I live in a household of men and it is not always easy to share in this way." Anonymous, Bendigo Gathering Proceedings, 1997.