Date: 19-21 May 2006.

Location: Hamilton Regional Art Gallery.

Theme: Hats off to Rural Women. According to the Hamilton Gathering Program, "our four-hat theme was chosen to reflect the diversity of women's contributions to rural and regional life." The Akubra hat was chosen to represent the "classic country", the academic hat "symbolises our continued desire for lifelong education", the construction hat celebrates the Gathering's focus on the farm and workplace and the fashion hat "represents the fun that can be had living in rural Victoria."

Icon: The Hamilton Gathering didn't have an icon per se, but the four hats all represented the Gathering's theme.

Highlights: The Hamilton Gathering was opened on the Friday with an informal "meet and mingle", which included a tasting of local wines and cheeses in the Hamilton Regional Art Gallery. Guests were then invited into the main auditorium of the Art Gallery to listen to performances by the Hamilton Singers and Church Hill singers, as well as speeches by local women. Sabrina Watt, for example, spoke of her journey from America to Australia, and her experience of marrying an Australian farmer. Local winegrower Tamara Irish also entertained guests with her speech about her life as a midwife and winegrower, and argued that "these are times for us to recognise the unique and powerful inputs that women of the rural sector can and are making."

The Gala Dinner held on the Saturday night was also a popular event. Described in the Hamilton Gathering as a "moving feast of music, dancing and high jinks", the evening's entertainment featured a light and sound show, a lively boot scooting band and a presentation by Olympic swimming champion Shane Gould, who spoke of her journey as a world class swimmer, as well as her life following her swimming career. Women who had attended the Line Dancing workshop also got a chance to showcase what they had learnt, and performed alongside the Hamilton Bootscooters. The tours offered at the Hamilton Gathering were also well received. For those who were interested in the history and heritage of the Hamilton region, two history tours were offered - one to the Warrock Homestead and one to the Murndal Homestead.

The Gathering itself ended on a historical note, with women travelling to the Hamilton Pastoral Museum to enjoy a BBQ lunch and various tours around the museum paddocks. Following some more women's stories, the Hamilton Gathering was officially closed and handed over to the committee for the following year's Gathering - the 2007 Shepparton Gathering.

Tours: Mt Bainbridge Lavender, Glenelg River Rosemary, Grampians Pure Sheep Dairy, Volcanic Centre, Henty Region Wineries, Glenelg Fine Chocolates, Murndal Homestead and Eucalyptus Discovery Centre, Iluka Mineral Sands Mine, Harrow and Warrock Homestead.

Workshops: Hat Making, Succession Planning, Genetics, Artificial Breeding, Website Management, Boot Scooting, Genealogy, Rose Pruning, Dealing with Contentious Issues, Hamilton Art Gallery Exhibitions, Sensory Gardening, Leadership, Fire Protection, HER Story: Putting Rural Women into HIStory.


Occurring in the same year as the 2006 Victorian Bushfires, the Hamilton Gathering Committee also organised funding and support for bushfire-affected women to attend the Gathering. Heather Thewlis of Willaura was affected by the bushfires and received funding to attend the Gathering. She reflected on her experience in the Hamilton Gathering Proceedings: "The fires had created yet another challenge for my family, with 100% of our land affected by the fire, many kilometres of fencing that needed replacing, many hundreds of lost stock, no feed, machinery sheds, a wool shed and workshop to replace and no tools with which to work... I was so glad I decided to attend [the Gathering], as it was an experience not to be missed. I went home to my family happy, relaxed and inspired to continue on despite the changes in journey we may have along the way."

On the Line Dancing Workshop: "Two groups of very enthusiastic workshop participants took part in a learning session of the basic steps in line dancing. Learning the right foot from the left and what steps come next created lots of laughs. Some of the first group enjoyed themselves so much they cancelled their second workshop to repeat it again." Linda Rook, Hamilton Gathering Proceedings, 2006.

On the Fire Protection Workshop: "I attended the CFA workshop and was most impressed. We moved outside for a practical demonstration on the usage of fire hydrants. We all had our turn and this was my first attempt. I was so pleased and proud of myself." Jeannine Hanson, Hamilton Gathering Proceedings, 2006.

"Had a great time mixing with rural ladies that enjoyed themselves so much - especially the ladies I met who had travelled so far by themselves to get there, way out of their comfort zones." Sandie Davey, Memory Sheet Reflection, 2006.

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