Date: 27-29 March, 1998.
Location: Ouyen Community Centre.
Theme: United We Meet, United We Stand. According to President of the Ouyen Organising Committee, Marion Morrish, "Holding the Gathering in Ouyen was something that our dear friend Pat Hall of Mittyack was very enthusiastic about. Unfortunately Pat was not able to see our dream fulfilled. It was through her inspiration that the committee was formed and the theme was adopted."
Icon: Mallee Bottle
Highlights: The Ouyen Gathering was dedicated to the memory of local resident Pat Hall. Pat had dreamed of holding a Gathering in Ouyen, but sadly passed away before it was held. In memory of Pat, the Gathering organisers held a dedication speech, in which local resident Jenny Simpson reflected that "Pat was a gracious woman who always had words of support and optimism for those who lived life on the land. On behalf of all people who knew Pat, I would like to dedicate this Gathering to her." Sadly, Kath Paynter of Chillingollah also passed away prior to the Gathering, and a dedication speech was read out by her friend Yvonne Jennings, "As a mark of respect, a memorial plaque with their names has been mad", stated Yvonne, "and it will be passed on to each Gathering." According to the Ouyen Gathering Proceedings, the dedications to Pat Hall and Kath Paynter were a highlight of the Gathering, with a relative of Pat reflecting that her "family were thrilled and honoured to be asked to attend the dedication during Friday's evening proceedings."
Another highlight of the Ouyen Gathering was a keynote speech by Janine Shepherd - a former champion cross-country skier who was seriously injured in a cycling accident. Despite receiving medical advice that she would never walk again, Janine became a mother of three and a commercial pilot. The message she delivered to Gathering participants was that through determination and a positive attitude, hardships can be overcome. Facing hardship with courage and determination was also a prominent theme discussed during the local women's stories. Local resident and committee member Marion Morrish, for example, spoke of the hardships that she has faced during her life on the farm. Despite the mouse plagues, droughts and loneliness, she spoke about how "the community spirit remains as strong as ever."
Following the women's stories on Friday and Saturday, the gala dinner on the Saturday night featured a 'Mallee sunset' backdrop for the stage, created by local artist Alyssa Linklater. It was against this scene that singer Mary Cummins performed her song 'Women of the Land', which was written especially for the occasion. This song celebrated the role of women on farms and was enjoyed by the Gathering participants, with several mentioning it on their evaluation sheets. Also a highlight was a performance by a Tongan choir, who took to the stage in traditional Tongan attire and performed several traditional songs and dances. On the Sunday morning, women could choose to do an early morning garden walk or attend the ecumenical service. Following that, they listened to more stories and then carried out the Closing Ceremony. During this ceremony, women reflected on the success of the past Gatherings and looked forward to the 10th Anniversary Gathering - the 1999 Warragul Gathering.
Tours: Hattah National Park and Hattah Salt Mining, Ouyen Township, Bronzewing Mining.
Workshops: Furniture Restoration, Introduction to Computing, Getting Physical, Home Drying Fruit and Vegetables, Town Walk, Dress with Confidence or Style, Asian Cooking, Waterwise Gardening, Asian Cooking, Landscapes in Pastel, Classing and Selecting Sheep for Profit, Welding, Planning for the Future, Business Planning, Property Management, Turning Your Idea into a Reality, Tension and Relaxation, Photography, Using the Options for the Future, Nutrition, Aromatherapy, Farmstay Tourism, Experiencing and Dealing with Grief, Financial Planning.
"My highlight was the renewing of friendships made at previous Gatherings both here and in South Australia - meeting new friends and the challenges offered to us by our keynote speakers. As a member of the organising committee, I know by the positive comments made to us by the women attending the Gathering that all our hard work and many hours spent organising the event has paid off." Anonymous, Ouyen Gathering Proceedings, 1998.
"The atmosphere in the hall was great and after making our way onto the stage we were seated and faced a sea of 200 faces all waiting in expectation and wonder. Janine [Shepherd] was finally introduced and after a minor hiccup with the microphone, her story unfolded with humour, emotion and amazement. During her story two women fainted. Janine was not distracted by this, but enlightened us to the fact that this is a common occurrence at her speeches. People become overwhelmed, emotional and so involved, that this is why they have these reactions. There must have been many lumps in throats throughout the story. We all enjoyed lots of laughter, gained lots of inspiration, and came away uplifted and full of vitality." From 'My day with Janine' by Colleen Morrish, Ouyen Proceedings, 1998.
"I felt Ouyen was an excellent Gathering due to distances; it was small, but very big on hospitality. The committee was very organised... The dinner on Saturday night was magnificent and every table had a hostess from the committee to look after us, and the night was packed with entertainment." Margaret Gray, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2004.
"Friendly, warm, motherly, just what I needed. At home, we had no money, no rain and almost no hope. I was loved by everyone at the Gathering like a sister. Everyone I had something in common with." Valerie Colbert, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2004.
Song: 1998 Ouyen - 'Women of the Land'