Date: 1-3 May 2009 (20th Anniversary Gathering)
Location: Warragul Regional College.
Theme: Celebrate Farming Women - Water Our Future. The local committee chose this theme "as water was becoming a very important commodity nationwide and we felt that it was most appropriate."
Icon: Model windmill and shed
Highlights: Being the 20th Anniversary of the Victorian Women on Farms Gatherings, the 2009 Warragul Gathering was a landmark event. According to the Gathering Program, "Now is a time of celebration in so many ways. For 19 years we have held Gatherings in Victoria and the idea of such occasions has spread to other parts of Australia. It is also a celebration of the continuing part rural women have in the agriculture industry and in our diverse rural and regional communities. Above all, we celebrate our own lives - what we do, how we think and face our futures."
Following the devastating 2009 Victorian bushfires - which had touched everyone's life in so many ways - the atmosphere was perhaps not quite so jolly as it could have been. So many amongst the throng were still hurting and would continue to do so for some time to come. Nevertheless, the chance to come together and share experiences was, for many women, hugely important and uplifting (the Federal Government provided some support for bushfire-affected women to attend). Also lifting everyone's spirits was a goody bag that participants received at registration which contained some touching items such as a pencil to write good thoughts on, a rubber band for when you are stretched beyond your limits and a heart to remind you that someone cares! Yes, celebration was there!
Friday night offered nibbles and wine, accompanied by the gentle tones of a harp - followed by dinner, women's stories and a chance to catch up and get to know new people. Several speakers provided the evening entertainment. Bronwyn Cowan spoke most entertainingly about the trials and tribulations of pig farming, Catherine McLennan spoke about her research thesis about the history of the Victorian Woman on Farms community and Lyn Johnson shared her very interesting life in farming and all its challenges and told of the highlights for her from each of the past 19 Gatherings.
The rest of the weekend brought the chance to do something interesting, either fun or instructive (or both). One could learn how to maintain their chainsaw, sing, learn to line dance, tai chi, pilates, yoga or rear a calf, among numerous other pursuits. At the Saturday night dinner, women were entertained with a performance by the women who had undertaken the "sing" workshop, and a special 20th Anniversary cake was cut by Beryl Taylor, Lyn Johnson and Sharon Nicita, who had attended all past 20 Gatherings. Women reflected on the history and heritage of the Gatherings, and looked forward to more Gatherings in the future.
Tours: Walhalla historic township, Melbourne Water Tarago Water Treatment, Glen Nayook rainforest walk, Powerworks (Morwell), Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, Trafalgar Dairy Goats, Candalaraine Alpacas at Neerim South, Harding's Orchard and Patchwork Apiary at Pakenham, Darnum Musical Village.
Workshops: Pastures, Chainsaw Know-How/Maintenance, Mobile Phones, Water Matters, Look Good, Feel Great, Sustainable Farming Families, Just Genes, Sing Australia, Superannuation, Permaculture, Calf Rearing, Line Dancing, House Decorating and Design, Family History, Tai Chi, Pilates and Yoga, You Too Can Be a Mentor, Paper Tolling and Folk Art, Paint Yourself Happy, Patchwork.
"I went to the Warragul Gathering with my daughter. I am not from a farming background but live and work in Warragul which is still a farming community. This Community had been affected by the Black Saturday Fires and I felt that this gathering was a bit subdued compared to another that I had attended. The friendliness and inclusiveness was still there but the overall atmosphere was not quite so effervescent. Perhaps just viewed through my own personal lens. The highlights for me were listening to my daughter address the audience on the Friday night with my heart filling with pride and 'Painting myself Happy' on the Saturday morning. It was lots of fun and I'm certain that all the ladies that took part would share my view. It's liberating to allow yourself the time to 'let yourself go' with a paintbrush and work surface and share in the chat and laughter of women who are determined to get something from the experience - and we did!" - Fiona McLennan, Reflection, 2011.
"I was quite involved with helping out with the 2009 Gathering and realised the great amount of work and effort that goes into hosting the event. I enjoyed the work leading up to the weekend in May, the guest speakers and the Water Matters workshop with Dr. Martin Kent. The trip on the Saturday afternoon to Powerworks at Morwell was also most interesting. As always, the dinner on the Saturday night and the Ecumenical service were highlights." Janice Swan, Reflection, 2011.
"I was elected treasurer for the 2009 Warragul Gathering, doing this for the second time l knew what l was in for. Though some monents were tense, l enjoyed every minute of the planning process. Again I didn't get to participate in any of the activities, but it was a pleasure to work behind the scenes. A large part was attending to the many women that had been in one way or another affected by the bushfires that had ravaged our area. As a committee member, and all our helpers work tirelessly even after all have gone home. I have made some good friends over the years, and continue to look forward to seeing these friends in the following years." - Rosa Wedmore, 2011.