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Danger! Women at Work!
By Cr John Jago

Wanted: Women – to make careers in Local Government, as councillors, CEOs, managers, consultants and contractors. Local Government is highly important business. Women need to get their fair share of it. Local Government is about building, strengthening and developing local communities.

The most urgent need for women in local government in Gippsland is as councillors, where at present women are nearly invisible. The voice of women, and particularly of business women, needs very much to be raised. In the final analysis, all politics is local.

In many respects, local government is the most important sphere of politics and government. It certainly is the one where local people can have the greatest say in influencing the outcomes in the affairs of their community. But be warned!

The hours may be long, the pay is pitiful, the media may be negative and there is little glamour in the job. Given all that, the councillor role is very satisfying. Women who are seriously considering standing for election as councillors should be preparing your campaigns right now. Why?

Because the system of postal voting means that there is little room to get your message across after the end of October – which is only four months away. Nominations close on Wednesday, October 26 for elections in all Gippsland Councils (Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland, Latrobe, South Gippsland, Wellington) with Election Day on Saturday, November 26.

There are several steps that you can take to help mount an effective campaign. I suggest that the most important one is to get in touch with the group known as Womens’ Participation in Local Government, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton.

WPILG has published two books on the role and tasks of the councillor and will be running at least one training workshop in Gippsland, probably in August. You can also talk with women who are currently councillors and those who have recently served. I am available to help if I can (contact details below).

To contact WPILG, telephone Linda Bennett at 03 9347 2233. Apart from the councillor role, it is vital that many more competent women see Local Government as a career. The range of work in Local Government is immense, from engineering to horticulture, to strategic and environmental and community planning, to financial control and top level administration.

There is enormous scope for women to be chiefs rather than Indians in local government. You could consider making Local Government your career of choice. Good hunting! Councillor John Jago 10 Willow Court, Sale 3850 Tel: 03 5144 7098 E-mail: jago@net-tech.com.au

Politics still a man’s world

With municipal elections due in November, discussion is brewing on who will stand and who will best represent the interests of the community in Local Government. Women, who comprise more than half the population but less than 30 per cent on council, are being encouraged to consider standing for election.

The mayor of South Gippsland Shire, Cr Diane Casbolt, said recently the government system seems tailored for men more than women. “To change it, women first need to infiltrate it by gaining selection,” Diane said. “It’s a case of which comes first, the chicken or the egg."

“We need more women on council to increase our vote.”

Cr Loretta Leslie, the only female councillor on Bass Coast Shire Council, agrees that much is to be Cr Loretta Leslie gained by having a more balanced gender ratio.

She has contributed the following article as an insight to her experiences:

Why is it important for women to be represented in all decision making processes and in particular Local Government?

I will begin with two brief anecdotes. My niece is 12 years old. The family is watching the news. The PM is speaking. My brother-in-law says ‘Look Charlotte, you could be Prime Minister one day!’ Charlotte replies ‘No, I couldn’t Daddy!’ ‘Why not?’ he asks. ‘Because I am not a man.’

My second story: I am out with the EO of an organisation of which I am a Board Member. Technically I am his boss. We stop for lunch at a corner store and while we are waiting two of the locals say ‘We are trying to guess what you do!’ ‘Well?’ I ask.

They reply ‘We think he is in politics’. ‘And me?’ I ask. ‘You are the secretary.’ We all laugh when I say ‘Actually, I am his boss and I am the politician!’ We talk about role models in sport. We need them in government as well. Women bring skills and experience which are uniquely their own.

When women are present the dialogue over issues changes. I used to think it was trite when people said ‘Women think differently’ but I have learnt from experience it is true. The comparison between my two terms on Council is evident. Being the only female present has presented challenges I had not expected.

While most would agree that social values are important the way women approach achieving outcomes is significantly different. Women don’t tend to push themselves forward over an issue. Most are content to achieve the outcome and not seek the glory.

Often this is to our detriment. It is not about right or wrong, it is about the diversity of opinion and views shared. Greater diversity of representation provides a wider range of views, improved democratic inclusion and, hopefully, better decision making.

It is not about having to stand up in front of crowds to speak; it is about being a conduit for the opinions and issues of a community; it is about finding the mechanisms to make things happen. Women are good at that. Women open opportunities for others.

I encourage anyone interested in standing for Local Government to find out more; women, young people, family builders, and business people. Healthy democracy is underpinned by strong debate.

Omeo shows how to do it - Back to Back a Success

The highly successful Back to Back International Wool Challenge, held in Omeo on the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June, sets the pace for other WwMB projects taking shape throughout Gippsland.

About 400 people passed through the venue, the Omeo Town Hall, to view the wool challenge and sampled the wonderful array of wares. Out of town visitors provided an income boost for the area and great exposure for local producers.

The International Wool Challenge began many years ago in Scotland with a wager to shear a sheep and knit a jumper in less than a day. The Back to Back (as it is called in Omeo) was fi rst held in Australia in 1994, and has been held in Omeo for about eight years.

It is held under the auspices of the Omeo and District Agricultural Society and this year the Women who Mean Business Project also provided assistance and support. The challenge involved a team shearing a sheep, spinning the fleece and knitting a man’s jumper, in as fast a time as possible, and according to strict rules which applied to all participants around the globe.

Although the Omeo team, called the Mountain Maids, didn’t rate a place in the top 12 times, they did a magnificent job and were enthusiastically supported by locals and visitors alike.

Overall winner was a team in Japan, in six hours, nine minutes and 24 seconds. The Omeo team provides the following roundup: A special thankyou must go to our team members: knitters Dorothy Goodman, Margaret Worcester, Rae Last, Anne Kissane; spinners Lyn Lochrie, Margaret Backett, Julie Christianson and especially to Alison Horne, shearer and provider of the sheep!

The sheep were particularly beautiful English Leicesters and seemed quite at home in the Omeo hall. A very special thankyou goes to John Butler who stepped in as MC at short notice and to Jean Jenkins who worked tirelessly to get the event running again this year.

An amount of $125 was raised for cancer by the auction of last year’s jumpers and this will be donated to Rotary House at the Latrobe Valley Hospital. The day started beautifully with Reverend Barbara Logan presiding over a service celebrating the Blessing of the Sheep.

The many activities, displays and demonstrations included: book signings by authors Barry Heard and Dawn Churchwood; face painting for the children provided by clown, Lisa Batchelor; a ‘Taste of the High Country’ with stalls showcasing local produce and wares such as bread and pastries, wines, and preserves, and some beautiful finger food.

There were stalls with superb handmade woollen clothing and hats, and superbly scented soaps as well as felting, knitting and blade-shearing demonstrations. The hall was decorated with fantastic drawings and textile work by children of the Omeo and Swifts Creek primary schools.

The photographs and memorabilia provided by the Cattlemen’s Association helped set the scene and people loved poring over the historic photos. And not to forget the wonderful band The Snapdragons, which entertained everyone superbly.

Many people absolutely loved the blade shearing demonstrations, with one Melbourne woman saying that it was the best event she had been to! She said that if something like this was held in the city it would only showcase one or two aspects, such as felting or knitting, not the whole gamut.

Such feedback was great as sometimes we take our achievements for granted. The Swifts Creek-Omeo Working Group comprises about 30 women from the towns of Benambra, Swifts Creek, Ensay, Cassilis and Omeo.

We come from diverse backgrounds and our project has developed into a rich, multi-faceted one which seeks to celebrate our culture and connect our communities. We hope to achieve this through:

  • supporting the 2005 Back To Back International Wool Challenge in Omeo;
  • holding a photographic exhibition; and
  • developing the first stage of a touring exhibition promoting the High Country and its culture to tour around Gippsland and Melbourne.

Now that the wool challenge is over the Members of Omeo’s Back to Back International Wool Challenge team, Rae Last and Margaret Worcester Lisa Batchelor entertained the children with her face painting at the Back to Back.

The next aspect of the project, the Photographic Exhibition, involves documenting the Back to Back event using photography. It was quite funny at times to see five or six photographers gathered around a sheep clicking away merrily.

Many wonderful photos were taken and there is a great sense of excitement around this upcoming exhibition. The exhibition will be held at the Swifts Creek Art Gallery from August 29-September 12 as well as the East Gippsland Art Gallery in Bairnsdale from September 29 to October 12.

Participants in the project attended a photography workshop held by Daniel Jenkins in February to help develop and consolidate their photographic skills. We are also developing an exhibition of contemporary artwork by local artists promoting the High Country. The aim of this exhibition is to encourage interest in, and tourism to, the region.

The exhibition seeks to explore the connection that artists have with the High Country and to highlight its beauty and rich diversity. This can be explored through painting, photography, textiles, ceramics or other mediums.

The exhibition will be launched at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne in October. Part of the project involves preparing the exhibition for tour around Gippsland and Melbourne, sourcing further venues and partnerships and applying for funding to tour - watch this space for more information!

This exciting project has a lot of potential for our region. To be involved, contact Deb Milligan.

Addressing safety issues for women with disabilities
By Jodie Pullman Gippsland Women’s Health Service

In recent years, anecdotal evidence gathered by Gippsland Women’s Health Service identified concerns about the vulnerability of women with disabilities to sexual and other forms of harassment when using public and privately owned transport.

This also raised concerns about the needs of women to access their communities in a safe manner and how this impacts on their lives in general.

Having recognised a need for research into the safety needs of women with disabilities, Gippsland Women’s Health Service recently completed a project that would identify those needs and develop a plan to meet them.

Project workers consulted with women across the Gippsland region with a range of different disabilities including intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities, neurological impairments and acquired brain injury, as well as meeting with disability networks and agency representatives.

As a result of the consultation process a range of issues and needs were identified, and many positive suggestions for change were made. In regards to physical safety, a number of issues were identified that were common to women of all ages and with all disabilities.

These included: crossing the street, kerb and gutter problems, poor street lighting, accessing disabled toilets, using automatic teller machines, feeling unsafe at home at night or feeling unsafe in public at night or in crowds.

Public transport was also problematic for most women interviewed as was parking for people with disabilities. For many women with mental health illnesses, issues included feelings of being followed and/or watched in their homes, concern that there is nothing between “being well” and “being in (a psychiatric ward)”, and/or fear about what will happen to them when their parents or carers die.

Many women also had personal health and safety issues regarding safe sex, appropriate behaviour, and going to hotels and nightclubs etc. When asked about possible strategies for feeling safer or dealing with difficult situations, women generally indicated three areas where change strategies needed to target.

  1. Personal skill and knowledge development, including self-assertiveness training, self defence, in-home safety and strategies for coping when afraid.
  2. Professional development programs for workers to increase their knowledge of disabilities and their skills in order to respond appropriately.
  3. Advocate for broader social change. As a result of the Women with Disabilities and Safety Project, Gippsland Women’s Health hosted two forums on March 16 and 17 to develop strategies that will address some of these issues.

The forums also featured a guest speaker from the Victorian Women with a Disability Network and Chris Jennings, who is the project worker for the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre’s “Triple Disadvantage Report” which focuses on violence against women with disabilities.

The forums, which were free, were held in Morwell and Bairnsdale.

For more information contact Jodie Pullman at Gippsland Women’s Health Service on 51431600 or 1800 805 448.

Victorian Women on Water wrap-up

The facts, fallacies and future of water were the focus of a dinner and forum held in Sale in October. The aim of Victorian Women on Water was to enhance women’s understanding of and participation in the water debate, to ensure the voices of rural and regional women are heard.

By understanding the issues, women will be better equipped to assert themselves in speaking to governments and authorities managing the industry. The forum encouraged networking between community members, with the ambition of acting as a catalyst for action.

The Gippsland Women’s Network and Wellington Shire Council hosted the forum, which provided information on the water debate from local to global levels, to mark World Rural Women’s Day. About 150 people participated in the forum’s presentations and workshops.

Staff from Government departments, national and state authorities, interacted with Gippsland business people and farmers. Chair of the Regional Women’s Advisory Council, Anne Dunn, said she would provide a report on the forum directly to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson. One of the main issues concerned the impact of the International Free Trade Agreement on water management.

For the first time a workshop was dedicated to identifying the social impacts of water reform. The forum steering committee will investigate the possibility of ongoing research in this area. Another outcome of the forum was establishment of the web site wow.org.au to enable ongoing discussion.

The Big Gallery

The small town of Briagolong is making its mark in the contemporary art world with the re-opening of its Big Gallery.

The gallery, which held an exhibition called “Down the Track” in December, had closed for about six months to enable it to be moved to a new venue. Established in 2002, the Big Gallery is operated and run as a co-operative venture by about 25 members of the Briagolong Fine Art Group.

The artists are all members of the Briagolong School of Fine Art run by local artist and teacher Pat Waters. Some of the gallery members come from as far away as Rosedale, Sale and one man travels all the way from Ensay.

The current exhibition has works by: Coral Minster, Deborah Milligan, Helen Booth, Judy Dorber, Lorraine Scott, Margaret Fennessy, Gabrielle Smith, Helen Francis, Diana Balhorn, Michelle Sandison, Esther Jago, Margaret Hallett, Robert Logie, Ali Sutton, Juliet Miskin, Fiona Reynolds, Libby Witchell, Judy Maxwell and John Lack.

In this exhibition marking the re-opening and relocation of our Gallery, the work is diverse and wide ranging. However one thing that unites it is the strength and boldness of the work displayed and this is frequently the first thing remarked on by visitors as they enter the gallery.

Many of the artists are concerned with environmental issues and this is reflected in their choice of subject matter. The exhibition has works in acrylic, oil, watercolour, mixed media and photography.

The group meets regularly, either weekly to paint together as part of the Briagolong School of Fine Art, or at a monthly gathering at tutor Pat Water’s house. Painting regularly together is a great source of inspiration and support for members.

Apart from being represented in The Big Gallery, the Briagolong School of Fine Art also has an annual group show in a major regional gallery, and many of the artists have solo exhibitions. The Gallery is open on Friday afternoons, Sundays and public holidays or by appointment.

International Back to Back Wool Challenge

Omeo is considered by many to be remote and isolated, but Jean Jenkins, is placing it on the world stage ... in the International Back to Back Wool Challenge. Jean tells her story: I was born and raised in the Omeo area and have only recently returned to live and work here.

I was away about 40 years and came back about three years ago. I just love the place ... it’s just so clean and pristine. It has drawbacks of remoteness and social life, but the environment, the beauty of the place and friendliness of country people far outweigh any negatives.

I work at the Omeo hospital almost full time as a nurse, and run the High Country Wash Tub, a little Laundromat at Omeo. I organise bush walks once a month and am involved the community in other ways ... particularly with the Back to Back competition.

The Back to Back teams comprise eight people— one is a blade shearer, the rest are spinners and knitters. We aim to shear the sheep, spin the wool, ply the wool and knit a man-sized jumper in less than eight hours. The record, of just over five hours, is held by the Mirrawa team in NSW.

About eight countries participate, including England, Scotland and Canada, on Queen’s Birthday weekend in June. Each country aims to hold its race on or as close to this date as possible. The Back to Back competition was held in Australia for the first time in 1994, and we’ve held it about eight years in Omeo.

The competition began in Scotland many years ago by people making a bet that you couldn’t shear a sheep and knit a jumper in a day. In those days, the sheep was not only shorn, but killed and eaten as well in a celebration, but we don’t do that any more.

The competition eventually ceased but in the middle of last century, a man in Britain wanted to raise funds for cancer and thought of the Back to Back, and got it going again. We still aid a cancer related organisation — in 2003 we supported Camp Quality for children and last year we supported the oncology unit at Bairnsdale hospital.

The Back to Back is a free entry day so we raise money for cancer research by raffling jumpers of previous year. When I came back to Omeo in 2003 I learnt the Back to Back competition had not run the year before, so I got it up and going by myself. It was quite an eventful day.

We had art and craft and wool, and in 2004 we did it again, extending it a little further, with a wool craft market. We had all wool things in our hall, and craft in the library. It was a lovely day with blade shearing demonstrations, spinning demonstrations and catering.

In 2004 we had two teams— one from East Gippsland and one from Melbourne — and are hoping this year for a third team, from the North East. With the WwMB involved, we’ll also have more entertainment. Bairnsdale is likely to enter a team, based at Bairnsdale, and others will compete around Australia. I’m a wool spinner from way back. I spin and weave, and had been involved with the Back to Back in earlier years.

The Back to Back is an opportunity to showcase wool as a primary industry and I also want to showcase its history, which is interesting, being so remote. Promoting sheep has many angles. I’m always thinking up new ways to involve the children, with the sheep, wool or knitting. As part of the Back to Back we hold lamb tastings in a culinary event which we call “A Taste of the High Country”.

Local wineries, a bakery and restaurant all take part. We also have a chap at the front door roasting chest nuts. We did this again in a bigger way at the 2004 Omeo Show, held on the second Saturday in November, and it was a huge success. In fact, the 2004 show was our best in recent times, and we’re hoping to build it up more as a great day out.

The Back to Back competition is held in the Omeo hall in Day Ave. We start at 8am with a blessing of the fleece, then a local dignitary opens the event and at 9am the sheep starts to be shorn. This goes on to 5.30pm. We have assessors to make sure rules of competition are obeyed. Last year I organised a celebratory dinner at the Golden Age Hotel, and we had roast lamb on the menu.

We grow lamb here so why not?! The Queen’s Birthday weekend is also the opening of the ski season. People off to the snowfields stop awhile and look at what we are doing — last year they were enthralled by a felting exhibition.

We have Bairnsdale machine knitters knitting with wool, a demonstration local mohair farm. We don’t use our local wool in the Back to Back — we have Merino at Omeo, and it’s harder to spin, and so use Border Leicester, a more open fleece from Sarsfield.

- For details about the Back to Back competition contact Jean Jenkins on 5159-1557. Jean would be particularly pleased to hear from any spinners and knitters who would like to be a member of team.

Moe St Vincent De Paul - Frederic Ozanam Soup Kitchen

The Moe Soup Kitchen has been in operation since September 1997. Through the work of a small but dedicated team of volunteers soup, sandwiches and sweets are delivered to the needy in the Moe district. Annette O’Dowd, Soup Van coordinator says, “this project has been a huge undertaking. For example from the 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, the Soup Van visited approximately 10,280 people delivering 21,000 sandwiches, 11,000 cakes, 2,400 litres of soup and 1,000 litres of cordial. We are always seeking out new volunteers to keep this vital service operating in our community.” Background to Getting it Happening In August 1997 invitations sent to stakeholders by the Moe Conference of St Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Society looking for interested parties to attend a meeting to set up a Soup Kitchen for the local area.

From this meeting a working party was established in September 1997 their aim was to find a suitable location, how often was a meal to be provided and importantly, who would provide the meals.

A moving van (kitchen) to minister to those in need for example to boarding houses, low-income areas, elderly shut ins etc was considered the most appropriate means of transport. Latrobe City offered the use of the Moe Town Hall kitchen.

Australian Rural Leadership Program

The ARLP is a two-year, part-time course that helps rural women and men who are leaders in their industries or communities to improve their professional and personal skills.

The participants examine national and international issues as well as getting to meet and talk with industry, government and community leaders here and overseas.

For further information visit www.ruralleaders.com.au/arlp.htm

Realise Your Dream

This year, British Council Australia will help three outstanding young Australians aged between 18 and 24 realise their dreams through a short trip to the UK, worth $10,000.

This opportunity of a lifetime focuses on the creative industries.

For further information visit: www.britishcouncil.org.au.

Expression Of Interest

2006 Women on Farms Gathering in East Gippsland. If you are interested in being part of a committee to host the 2006 Women on Farms Gathering please contact Debbie Gray, Lakes Entrance, by telephone: 03 5155 4714

Orbost: Community Singing Festival

Snowy River Arts Network (Orbost) have received a grant from Regional Arts Victoria of $5000 to host a Community Singing Festival in Orbost on the weekend of 23 to 24 October 2004.

Inquiries please contact Mary McDonald at Orbost Community House 5154 6616 or after hours 03 5154 1773.

Warragul: Gippsland Women In Business

Financial Independence for Women Dinner Tuesday, 6th July, 2004 at 6:30pm at Stage Door Restaurant, West Gippsland Arts Centre, Albert Street, Warragul. Cost $25 per head (Cash only please) for a 2-course dinner with drinks at bar prices.

The theme of the dinner is “Financial Independence for Women” and a number of guest speakers will be present to provide information on Financial Planning, Property Investment, Conveyancing and Finance Mortgage Broking.

Guests are requested to wear a name badge and a 'Trading Table' will operate, providing the opportunity to display business brochures and promotional material.

Payment can be made on the night but all bookings must be made and confirmed no later than Thursday, 1st July, 2004.

All inquiries: Lois Pratt, Secretary to the CEO Community News & Mayor, Baw Baw Shire Council on 5624 2411, or email: lois.pratt@bawbawshire.vic.gov.au (emails preferred).

Warragul: Dreaming Baw Baw:

Event title: Dreaming Baw Baw: Writers' and Story Tellers' Festival
Date: Saturday 28 August Time: 2.00pm
Venue: West Gippsland Arts Centre, Civic Place, Warragul
Enquiries and Workshop Registration: Phone: Michael 03 5624 2407 or email: michael.henson@bawbawshire.vic.gov.au

Free entry to all activities, including free registration for workshop sessions, bring your own pen and paper.

A fun day of story telling for big and little kids; creative writing workshops; poetry and short story readings in the evening with a little folk music thrown in for good luck.

Showcasing West Gippsland authors, writers, and story tellers through writing and reading workshops with performance opportunities at the West Gippsland Arts Centre.

Poetry, Short Stories, Spoken Word Groups or solo performances, minimalist play readings welcome to register for the Open Stage session. Books for sale.

This event is part of the 2004 Age Melbourne Writers' Festival umbrella event program.

Web: www.bawbawshire.vic.gov.au

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