Women who Mean Business selling Gippsland 's Finest
  Participant Profiles

Leona Lavell

Leona Lavell, of Buchan, shares her life experiences:

My name is Leona Lavell, my home is in Buchan Valley beside the river.

I went to the initial meeting for WwMB as I have been interested in art and craft and also the promotion of our district in this field. We have a multitude of fine artists and skilled crafts person in our area and the thought that a dream we have had for some years of opening a display and selling venue on the Main Street could be possible was a further incentive.

I come from a farming background from self sufficient people whom not only clothed the whole family from their skills but who were adept at taking nothing and recycling it into something.

As on all farms in the Depression years, children were an integral part of the arts, crafts, preserving and farm work. The women in our family were treated as equals in all aspects of farm life and the men assisted with the pickles and brines for food preparation.

Everyone lent a hand with jams and preserves. As well as the usual crafts little girls learned, the tanning of hides, the curing of bacon, fishing, shooting, riding and the eternal war on rabbits where we earned our pocket money were interesting to me also.

At the age of 13 we were encouraged to make and decorate our own clothes and do embroidery for our glory boxes. Over the years the old skills have enabled me to supplement our income and educate our three daughters.

My marriage ended in 1945. I took work at Gibbs Bright Mill, cooked for a mustering camp in the Northern Territory and was taught textile technology with Anne Greenwood when a new world of colour and design was discovered.

Beading and pine needle basketry are my present interests.

In the Buchan WwMB project I can see a great opening for all ages, and I hope that through it the old skills can be handed down as they were to me and that the Old Post Of.ce Art and Craft Gallery spreads its charm far and wide

Ingrid Thomas

Ingrid Thomas wondered if there was life after raising a family and a teaching career:

After a lifetime of bringing up a family and teaching, not having a regular job was a daunting prospect. I wanted to take up with my artwork again, having put it on hold for a decade.

I had been down the track of carting my paintings to and from artshows around the country, but now I didn’t even know which art-shows were on. During an inspirational week of painting at one of my favourite spots, Wilsons Promontory, I thought about ways of more easily showing my works.

The internet seemed such a natural step, particularly as “he who pays the bills now” works in interactive web design. With the aim of promoting artists I have set up the Gippsland Artists Website

It should provide a focus for both artists and art lovers. It works by giving the artists their own free web-page or a link to their existing webpage. All artists are listed as well as notices about their, and others, up-coming exhibitions.

A similar approach is being developed for Art Galleries and Studios through out Gippsland. Geoff, who does the behind the scenes work, has been very supportive of my project. I do however need to wait until he has the time to do additional work.

It has been a gratifying experience getting to know artists around Gippsland and putting together their web-pages. I had no idea of the breadth of talent in Gippsland.

I am presently working towards having an exhibition of Gippsland Artists that will feature a display of current works that are also on their websites. Artists need only provide me with about five images of their work (either small digital images via email or photos by post) and some biographical material so I can prepare for them a basic web-page.

When they become ‘members’ of Gippsland Artists they can advertise their exhibitions on-line or participate in Gippsland Artist exhibitions. Artists wishing to be a “Featured Artist “ pays a small annual fee, but otherwise no other costs are involved.

I have found that being involved with Women who Mean business has been very bene.cial, in learning networking, communications and project management. I am only sorry I was not part of the project earlier to have learnt more the workshops that were offered.

Lerida Watt

Lerida Watt describes how her passion for dance motivated her to open a dance wear shop in Leongatha:

A sea change resulted in a different lifestyle in South Gippsland and allowed precious time to re.ect on the opportunities awaiting her, when Lerida Watt relocated from Melbourne to Venus Bay in February 2004.

A former dancer, who performed with companies in Australia and overseas, Lerida opened a retail shop, wear2dance, last year. Shortly after moving to South Gippsland she started working with the Lisa Pellin Dancers in Leongatha as a part-time administrator and quickly realised there was a need for a dance wear outlet in the area.

People had been traveling great distances to source these things before and after opening the shop in Leongatha it meant, for many people, being able to save both time and money by buying locally.

Some years ago, when I was considering starting my own business, a financial planner advised me that the most successful businesses are those that have developed from a hobby or passionate interest.

At that time I was considering doing something quite different but I realise now how true those words of advice were. You must really enjoy what you are doing and I feel people have coincidence in me because of my long involvement and expertise in dance.

The focus, discipline and work ethic instilled in me during my dance training had prepared me for whatever challenges lay ahead and my former position in Melbourne, as Registrar of the National Theatre Ballet School, provided me with the knowledge of suppliers and contacts in setting up the shop.

The importance of timing, background knowledge, passion or belief in what you do and the need to create a niche for yourself is critical. Happily all these things came together for me and resulted in wear2dance.

With my partner Bert I have recently taken up residence in Leongatha to be closer to my shop and I am looking forward to providing a more extensive range of dance, active and leisure wear in the future as the business grows.

Lerida brings dance wear to the country Lerida Watt is continuing her passion for dance at Leongatha by opening a dance wear shop.

Hilda Rhodes

Hilda Rhodes shares her journey: Getting away from the south east of England with all the millions of people living there, had become a priority for my husband Ray and myself.

Ray had wanted to immigrate to Australia in the mid-eighties but with my parents still alive at that time and living in Scotland and having just embarked on a promising career with Barclays Bank, I wasn’t ready to make the move.

My career with Barclays was successful and I ended up as head of IT and programme management for a division of Barclays. However I discovered that life at the top of the corporate management world was not really where I wanted to be, so I decided to look for an alternative career doing what I loved but which was flexible enough to allow me to work part-time.

I did some research, trained as an executive coach and quali.ed as an accredited mediator with Regents College London. It was around this time that Ray decided he also had had enough of corporate life.

Then my best friend broke the news that she and her Australian husband were moving to Queensland. I went home and suggested to Ray that a move to Australia might be the change of environment that we both needed. A few calculations later and a check on what the requirements were for a retirement visa for Australia and the decision was made. It took us about 18 months to sell our houses (we had two) and sort out all our affairs.

During this time I was introduced to Shirlaws, an Australian business coaching company which was just starting up in the UK and suddenly, I had found what I really wanted to do.

We arrived in Melbourne last August and fairly quickly decided that we wanted to live in Gippsland. We bought a lovely house in Maffra with great views of the mountains and lots of garden for our dogs.

Everyone, particularly our good friends Jim and Heather Phillipson made us feel very welcome. Ray had decided that he really wanted to retire and Maffra provides the ideal environment for his passion of bike riding and lots of other outdoor activities.

I wanted to meet new people and see if I could do some business coaching. Our visa allows me to work part-time. Heather mentioned my aspirations to her sister Beth Ripper who invited me along to the Maffra /Stratford Sculpture Garden Project.

At my first WwMB meeting, Beth volunteered to take over the project officer’s role from Deb Milligan. With my business background, it seemed only natural to offer to support Beth in that role.

Beth’s energy and determination to make things happen have provided the momentum to make the Sculpture Garden happen. Amanda Goodge’s creative talent, coupled with practical ideas and perseverance have also been inspirational.

Many others have and will be involved with this project but for me, working with and supporting these two women with their unique and special qualities has been an enlightening experience. I now wonder why I waited 20 years to make the move.

Ruth Hanson

Ruth Hanson shares her journey, and love of timber:

I have lived in East Gippsland for the past 20 years with my husband Morgan and young family who are now grown up: Sarah who lives in South Australia and is an Amnesty International campaign co-ordinator, my son Owen who works with Morgan in the wood business and Zoe who is still in primary school.

We moved to the area full of hope and determination. We moved to a remote farm in a forested area that was an hour’s drive north of Orbost and about 20 minutes from the smaller community of Goongerah.

Our closest neighbours were 10 kms away. We were very naive about the workload we had undertaken, but we were sure that we could cope with any challenges that lay ahead. The property was 40 hectares, half was cleared, the rest was bush.

We had no house, no electricity and no workable fences. We arrived with our tents, chainsaw, our old Land Rover and $700 cash, with which we bought a water tank and a pump.

We decided to go into the woodwork business. Our environment had quickly educated us about the beauty and usefulness of East Gippsland timbers. We had to learn about the trees surrounding us in order to use them to their full potential.

We were amazed by their versatility. In 1985 I enrolled in a part time TAFE course one weekend a month in Orbost. This course turned into an associate diploma in wood design.

I think I worked at it for six years Ruth carves a meaningful life in the bush but did not complete it. The course was moved to Bairnsdale, which proved to be an unworkable situation for me, and shortly afterwards the course stopped.

However, the stimulation gained from the TAFE College had been invaluable, and enabled me to connect with other “woodies” once a month. I am very interested in community development with true sustainable outcomes.

As a result of this I have been actively involved in numerous community projects including the mosaic path for Uniting Our Rural Communities. I was a founding member of the Women of the Snowy River as a result of this project and myself and other members of the group also produced the Ceremonial Handover Bowl for the Agricultural Rural Women’s International Conference.

We then produced the Snowy River Floodmarker which depicts the six highest floods since the first recording. I was also a founding member of Wood Inc. and initiated the Australian Wood Design Exhibition 14 years ago.

This exhibition is now housed in our purpose built Orbost Exhibition Centre which we campaigned for and fund raised to come to fruition after seven long years. I have been a teacher for many years of wood carving and I am interested in and continue sharing my knowledge with other community members in all facets of community capacity building.

I recently completed a graduate certi.cate in regional community development at Monash University. I work with ‘at risk’ youth, building their self esteem and skill base through creative projects such as furniture and mosaic tables working mainly through their personal interests and building on their skills.

I am also passionate about making the most of our precious natural resources of timber and water while empowering our grassroots communities through creative problem solving so that our community can flourish in a more harmonious setting.

I love my life and work, particularly the creative bits, and I really love creating with others.

Mary Randall

During the past nine months, I have become more involved with WwMB than I would have predicted when joining the project. I live at Rawson and had asked a friend, Quentin O’Keefe, whether there were any women’s networks operating in Gippsland.

I remembered that there used to be a good one in the Western district of Victoria when I lived there 10 years ago. She emailed me immediately with dates of a workshop on leadership to be held in Morwell, and I decided to attend.

This was the start of a rich association with some lovely people, several of whom decided to come and join the drumming group I attend. Michelle Tisdale was one of these and she has since done a great job of project coordinator.

I attended the meeting where we decided on the project we would pursue, the book which became known as Tucker ’n Tales. With several women from my area, I attended the writing and interviewing workshop, and this cemented our time together as after that there was always some business to do!

For me it was important that the group acknowledge that we did not live in the Latrobe Valley, but in the Mountain Riavers area, and that the book acknowledge and include this area.

While we use the facilities of Latrobe, we are in Baw Baw Shire, and have lots of different issues, including a strong tourist focus. It has been great collecting stories from some of the locals, and understanding the history of our towns from their perspective.

I think this has brought them to see me in a different light, and I hope that the book will achieve acknowledgement for some of our pioneers and more recent arrivals.

The project has not had a huge effect on my family, although I feel they will notice it more at the launch and once we go to print. My husband Peter has been supportive, and took care of the kids when I was at the Saturday workshop.

He also discussed possible sources of local knowledge with me, as he has a different perspective, being in natural resources. I have found writing the stories easier than I expected, but I think that my job, where I have to plan and write reports under some pressure, may have assisted.

Probably my job also helped with conducting the interviews. My paid job is as a psychologist, but I have been dabbling in photography and other media projects for a long time.

It was great to get some positive feedback from our editor, June, and this encouraged me to tackle more stories. I certainly have some new ideas for projects in the future, and hopefully having participated in this project will assist in them too coming to reality.

There have been many times in this project where we have felt discouraged, and worried that we have bitten off more than we can chew. But a bit of positive self-talk and talking with others has kept up our enthusiasm, so that now we know that it will happen. Can’t wait for the launch!

Michelle Sandison

The WwMB project has been a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, and create something wonderful for our local community. I was born in Sale and traveled to Scotland in the early eighties to begin a new life with my husband Neil.

There I was able to rediscover my love for painting, especially being surrounded with the most beautiful scenery an artist could imagine. Along with two children, James and Nicoll, now both teenagers, we moved back to Australia (Neil emigrated) in 1992, we settled in Briagolong, and added another child, Alistair, now 11, to our family.

In these years my art was shelved due to busy family life and I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The past few years have seen an improvement in my health but changed the way I view my life, one day at a time.

I have resumed painting and attend a weekly class in Briagolong with Pat Waters’ Briagolong School of Fine Art. I’ve learned to appreciate the more abstract side of art and my art has changed considerably.

Recently along with my sister Vivien we have started our own business called Auraz where we have set up a mobile shop specialising in locally handcrafted and environmentally friendly products, including my own range of hand painted greeting cards.

At the moment we are traveling around to local markets and festivals, soon we hope to have party plan home shopping set up and eventually set up in a retail premises locally.

The WwMB project has been a great vehicle for me to learn new business skills to put towards my own business and I look forward to seeing our garden project in Stratford come to fruition. Michelle is learning new skills and developing her own business.

Sarah Hawkey

With a life long interest in health and nutrition, Sarah Hawkey, 22, studied Health Science at Deakin University, majoring in Health Promotion, Nutrition and Food Studies.

On graduating, Sarah started work with the West Gippsland Healthcare Group based in Warragul where her role is to coordinate population health promotion strategies. “My job is essentially about creating environments where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice,” Sarah says. “My role has developed from past health promotion evidence, showing that interventions that create healthy community environments at a population level are a very effective way to the improve health and wellbeing of a population.

“While it is very important that we have good treatment for individuals when they are unwell, it is my role to assist in creating community environments where individuals are less prone to ill health and disease.

“Part of this role also includes educating and encouraging the whole community to adopt health-promoting behaviours. “ Sarah liaises and works closely with key local organisations and groups such as the Shire Council to create environments for health.

She is a part of many networks including the Baw Baw Active Communities Network that is concerned with physical activity and the physical environment, as well as the Health and Wellbeing Network.

One project she is involved with is “Move Your Feet in Baw Baw”, which will involve a large community consultation about walking and physical activity and will record and map all current walking trails and document for the Shire the community’s recommendations for future development.

There are also plans to train volunteers to lead groups of walkers. Sarah is also involved in a project called Move Your Feet, Watch What You Eat that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools.

Schools are an important setting for health and evidence is showing that levels of overweight and obesity in children are a huge problem in today’s society’. It is important that schools adopt and encourage healthy living and healthy communities.

This project includes providing education and training for teachers and parents on nutrition and physical activity, as well as healthy lifestyle activities and events for the students.

One of Sarah’s main passions is promoting fruit and vegetables. “Eating two serves of fruit and five serves of fruit is one of the best things you can do for your health’,” Sarah says. Presently Sarah is working on activities that will promote fruit and vegetables, including community food and nutrition workshops.

“We want to get the word out to the community and we try to do it in a variety of ways, including attending events such as Farm World and the Kids Winter Festival,” Sarah says.

We provide access to information and resources, as well as healthy living workshops and cooking demonstrations.” Sarah also has a role to support community groups who have a health promotion interest and she believes that networking is important to find out what community groups are doing.

“By pooling our resources we can do much more and save ourselves from duplicating work already being done,” she says. The Warragul ‘Gippsland Women Who Mean Business’ group and their Linear Park Trail project links perfectly with Sarah’s health promotion work.

Beautiful environments are conducive to physical activity. The ‘seat project’ and the beautification of the trail will lead to more people walking, jogging and riding. It will become a ‘family friendly’ fitness track.

Sarah has committed herself to a further three years of postgraduate study by undertaking a Masters degree in ‘Public Health.’ “I enjoy working with people and I know I can make a difference,” she says. Submitted by Maree Wallace.

Cheryl Kane

I grew up in Melbourne and at 21 years of age I moved to Papua New Guinea where I spent five years working for a mining company as a senior management secretary.

There I met my husband and we subsequently moved back to Melbourne, living in the Dandenongs. Six years later and after I had been diagnosed with severe chemical sensitivities, we moved to Gippsland and began beef farming near Yarram.

It is a beautiful area, close to the best beaches in the world, home to the Tarra Valley rainforests and near Wilsons Promontory. I started patchworking during this time, which soon became an addiction.

After my marriage broke up I decided to stay in the area – returning to Melbourne was not an option because of my health, and I had also made some very good friends here.

I bought an old house on three acres on the outskirts of Yarram, and ran a couple of cows and calves, as well as my normal menagerie of household pets. The house was very rundown after years of neglect and the garden was nonexistent apart from a jungle of weeds.

I was physically and financially unable to do much with the house initially, but the garden was a wonderful challenge to create something beautiful so, as well as an ornamental garden, I created an organic orchard and vegie patch from which I then produced preserves – conserves, chutneys, sauces, mustards, as well as prepackaged foods, pates and cakes to sell at local markets to holidaymakers and people too busy to cook.

I was also studying studio textiles at TAFE, Fulham, although my traditional patchwork came to a standstill during this time as my efforts were directed towards making patchwork evening jackets, crazy patchwork vests, quilted coats, handbags and funky fezes (pillbox hat with a tassel!).

In recent years I have again changed direction, relocating my parents from Melbourne to Yarram in 2001.

Ann Andrew
Frog Gully Cottages

Farmers are traditionally averse to taking risks, or stepping outside their comfort zones, so having lived my life in farming families this project has been a great adventure for me.

While I have always been aware of the beauty of the wetland on our property, it was not until I was at home for an extended period recuperating from illness, that I really started to realise how lucky we were to have our own piece of wetland, complete with frogs and waterbirds – lush and green through summer, and under water in winter.

In 1995 I started making notes, and plans for some sort of accommodation which would overlook the wetland. We fenced off a gully which was eroding badly, with Landcare funding in 1996 and that gave me an ideal enclosed area with the perfect site for cottages.

The idea came and went for the next few years, but would not go away. Finally I reasoned that I was almost ready to give up driving into Sale to work and I needed something to do at home.

Having considered options I came back to the cottage idea. I then worked on some serious business plans and produced something that the bank manager and the accountant agreed had some merit.

My initial choice for the cottages was a kit home in a hexagonal shape which looked very cute and environmentally appropriate. Fortunately we were encouraged to visit some cottages in the Grampians and decided they were totally wrong for what we wanted, as everything was in wedges so very close together and the shapes were awkward to work with.

I then set about developing my own plan, and with the help of my husband and a draftsman came up with the plan for the cottages, which has met with approval by all who have seen it.

It was difficult to decide what cladding we would have, as my husband thought colourbond would look like a shed, but fortunately we found a great little house in Yuill Road which convinced us that colourbond could look smart.

I wanted a name which was catchy and appropriate, so after quite a few morning walks spent trying out different names I came up with Frog Gully, as we do have frogs and there is a gully close by!

I was fortunate to get an excellent builder, Ken Horstman, who was sympathetic to my ideas and happy to go along with what I wanted. He started work in December and finished at the end of May.

I have discovered that with a project like this, the difficult part is not the practical work involved in getting it done, but maintaining the confidence in what you are doing!

I am really terrified of the financial commitment, though I know it should be OK, and I have had periods of sheer panic – what have I done?

The support of the Women in Business group in the early days, and participating in the Women Who Mean Business business sessions late last year, has boosted my confidence. So we now have two self-contained cottages set to fill a gap in the accommodation options in the Sale area.

We hope to attract birdwatchers, artists and photographers and people wanting a getaway with view. We are next door to the golf course, and under 10 minutes from Sale, so hope we may get some business people who want to experience the country while they are traveling through Gippsland.

I am becoming involved in the tourism industry and have been accepted onto the Wellington Shire Tourism Advisory Committee. I still work four days a week as librarian at the hospital, but am hoping that I can soon take the leap from a secure income to my own business, as I am more than ready for a change.

Many thanks to the Women who Mean Business for their support and interest in my Frog Gully Cottages project.

Frog Gully Cottages (rated Four Star by RACV)
Address: Lot 2419 Rosedale Rd, Longford VIC 3851
Phone: 03 5149 7242   Fax: 03 5149 7691
ann@froggully.com.au    www.froggully.com.au

Ruth Hanson

1I have lived in East Gippsland for the past twenty years with my husband Morgan and young family who are now grown up - Sarah who lives in South Australia and is an Amnesty International Campaign Co-ordinator, my son Owen who works with Morgan in the wood business and Zoe who is still in primary school. We moved to the area full of hope and determination. We moved to a remote farm in a forested area that was an hour's drive north of Orbost and about 20 minutes from the smaller community of Goongerah. Our closest neighbours were 10 kms away.

We were very naive about the workload we had undertaken, but we were sure that we could cope with any challenges that lay ahead. The property was 40 hectares, half was cleared, the rest was bush. We had no house, no electricity and no workable fences. We arrived with our tents, chainsaw, or old Land Rover and $700 cash, with which we bought a water tank and a pump.

We decided to go into the woodwork business. Our environment had quickly educated us about the beauty and usefulness of East Gippsland timbers. We had to learn about the trees surrounding us in order to use them to their full potential. We were amazed by their versatility.

In 1985 I enrolled in a part time TAFE course one weekend a month in Orbost. This course turned into an Associate Diploma in Wood Design. I think I worked at it for six years but did not complete it. The course was moved to Bairnsdale, which proved to be an unworkable situation for me; shortly afterwards the course stopped. However, the stimulation gained from the TAFE College had been invaluable, and enable me to connect with other "woodies" once a month.

I am very interested in community development with true sustainable outcomes. As a result of this I have been actively involved in numerous community projects including the mosaic path for Uniting Our Rural Communities. I was a founding member of the Women of the Snowy River as a result of this project and myself and other members of the group also produced the Ceremonial Handover Bowl for the Agricultural Rural Women's International Conference. We then produced the Snowy River Floodmarker which depicts the six highest floods since the first recording.

I was also a founding member of Wood Inc. and initiated the Australian Wood Design Exhibition fourteen years ago which is now housed in our purpose built Orbost Exhibition Centre which we campaigned for and fund raised to come to fruition - seven long years!!

I have been a teacher for many years of wood carving and I am interested in and continue sharing my knowledge with other community members in all facets of community capacity building and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Regional Community Development at Monash University. I work with 'at risk' youth building their self esteem and skill base through creative projects such as furniture and mosaic tables working mainly through their personal interests and building on their skills.

I am also passionate about making the most of our precious natural resources of timber and water while empowering our grassroots communities through creative problem solving so that our community can flourish in a more harmonious setting.

I love my life and work, particularly the creative bits I really love creating with others. info@orbostexhibitioncentre.org

Mariama Kamara

On January 14, 2005, a very ordinary brown envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was the announcement from the Immigration Department that my husband Foday (pronounced “4day”) Kamara had been granted his Permanent Residency Visa.

After the initial eruptions of disbelief, we both settled into silence as we pondered the news. It was over….it was finally over….we had done it!

We could get on with our lives, and begin the joyous task of deleting the huge immigration file taking up so much room in our heads…not forgetting the folders of emails, personal letters, evidence of cohabitation, phone bills, police clearances, photographs, letters of support from family and friends, passports, copies of house deeds, so on and so on.

We had made a well beaten path to the local J.P. as all documentation had to be copied and certified and there were endless amounts of “stuff” in every corner of the house.

All the time we would worry and wonder if we had supplied enough information to satisfy the stranger who would examine it and decide our future. During the times I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, I would think of Foday having to deal with African bureaucracy and these thoughts would help me refocus for immigrations next “challenge”.

When Foday and I met in Ghana 1999, we had no idea about what lay on the road ahead, but we did know that to be apart was emotionally painful, isolating and no longer an option. Our fifth caseworker in Nairobi was Teresia Mwangi and I thank her for courteously responding to my email inquiries. Immigration advised us that contact with the department could further delay our visa.

Mistakes cost time, and time is so precious under these circumstances. To have someone to discuss your thoughts/ideas with who understands the language of immigration is a blessing. After five years, three marriages, a microscopic examination of our relationship/life and lots of money later – for example, an application for a spouse visa is $1125 -- Foday and I won the right to be together.

If you think it you create it, and never give in. The Gippsland migrant resource centre in Morwell was comfortingly supportive and knowledgeable.

The Department of Immigration demanded that all information had to be exact – for example any names or dates out of place could jeopardise your visa chances, but as I looked at the name on the envelope and at the top of the letter sent to us in January, I shook my head and smiled. They had addressed it to Mr Forday Camara.… Howz that?!

Judy Modra
Swifts Creek / Omeo Group

Judy Modra moves to Omeo and postpones hitting the road with van and boat… We (Mike and I) moved to Omeo in October 2003 having just bought a shearing shed to renovate and turn into a house.

After six months of hard work we moved into our home. We anticipated that soon we would be on the road several months at a time with our van and boat and have Omeo as a base but… I read an article in the local newspaper about WwMB and with an interest in women’s groups I thought it would be good to meet the locals and do some ‘up skilling’ with the courses on offer.

I met Marijs Last from Omeo District Health at several sessions and she said “You look like someone who likes to work with people and can organise things: come and see me tomorrow you need a job!” Now I am the health promotion worker with Omeo District Health and part of my work includes women’s health.

We’ve held two successful consultation/ education nights (60 women attended over two evenings from the Omeo region) on women’s health. Programs now in place include mental health, first aid, women’s lifestyle skills, negotiation skills and more women’s evenings where we can share information.

Tourism is another interest to me as I have worked and studied tourism over the more recent past and have been employed in SA and NT. I am the recently appointed secretary of the Omeo Regional Business and Tourism Association.

A focus on development from governing bodies has just come about. It is still in the consultative stage and I look forward to the community workshops to assist with the region’s development.

I have been involved in business and community development in my home town in Goolwa SA for many years (near the Mouth of the River Murray, The Coorong and Kangaroo Island). But my first career was as an Enrolled Nurse, for 13 years, during which I married a builder and had two children.

I served on committees to establish child day care, a kindergarten, play groups, student special needs assessment in rural primary schools, literacy programs and parent participation in schools.

I also served on many school and regional committees. Business development for me during this time was buying equipment for concrete work, bricklaying, trenching equipment, and finally, literally building a concrete plant.

Yes, I was a great labourer in my day, book keeper and project coordinator. I prepared and presented several “Introduction to small business management” workshops for “skill share” for unemployed people interested in starting up their own businesses.

When the children left home so did I. Tourism was a new field and I needed a change of direction so after education and volunteering I managed the Goolwa TIC. I was then employed as a weekend manager of Signal Point, Murray River Interpretive Centre.

Tour guiding was a favourite and I moved to Alice Springs where I met Mike. We had our own tour business (Desert Dreams, touring Ayres Rock and Kings Canyon). I also worked in a jewellery store in Alice Springs selling opals and diamonds to tourists.

Then Mike retired and we moved south to be near family, retire in Omeo and travel at leisure. I guess one day we’ll be on the road with our van and boat …

Patricia Clynes
Warragul Group

One of eight siblings, Patricia Clynes was born in Port Melbourne. Times were tough, but she remembers fondly the weekend trips to the country and visits to the local beach after school.

Patricia left school at 14 and her first job was as a junior in a dress shop for four years, followed by office work until her marriage at 23. Patricia’s husband, Geoff, soon accepted a career move to Sydney.

With two little toddlers under the age of two and no family support, Patricia established a babysitter’s club. They lived in Sydney for 12 years and their third child was born there. During this time, Patricia’s life revolved around her husband’s career and her children.

She worked in the tuckshop and on school committees. Regretting her lack of formal education, Patricia constantly strove to improve herself. Over the years, she has enrolled in various courses at community centres, including flower arranging, oil painting classes and a literature course.

Nearing retirement age, the couple made the big decision to move to Warragul three years ago. Patricia chased up various organisations to meet new people. “I was looking for a new direction in life and when I read about the two day leadership workshop, I saw it as a great opportunity to meet women from various walks of life and to do something for the community,” says Patricia.

Enjoying the connection and networking, Patricia has enthusiastically embraced the Warragul ‘Seats of Distinction’ project. “I’m delighted with the decision to take on the Linear Park Trail. It’s an exciting project which could go on indefinitely. It is an opportunity for our youth to become involved in our community, to be creative and to have a sense of ownership,” she says.

Patricia says the benefits have been threefold. “Our small group meets regularly over coffee to discuss the progress of the project and new friendships have been formed. With the support of the other dynamic women and my husband, my confidence has grown and I am able to utilise new skills such as research on the internet, record keeping, liaising with the Shire, forming goals and planning timelines,” Patricia says.

She has walked the walk numerous times and has actually spoken to people who use the trail regularly to gauge what improvements they would like. She has also taken photographs of possible sites for the seats and used these in a package to present to the Shire. “The project has given me a purpose in life,” she smiles.


Lorraine Craigie
Orbost Project

I have always been interested in community activities. My first experience was helping to run an art and craft fair in Eltham for the local kindergarten that my children attended. I loved working together to achieve a goal for everyone.

Life passes, time and circumstances change, and my partner Dave and I reached the point where we had to decide to stay in Melbourne close to our children or follow our personal dreams, and move.

Dave wanted to be near the sea and boats and, as long as I could have a veggie patch and bush around me, I would be fine so, facing redundancy and work that Dave didn’t like in the city, we decided we could provide a great holiday place for children and grandchildren, let them get on with their lives, and follow our dreams at the same time.

We had spent 20 years camping at Cape Conran, our kids loved it here, so with our youngest son Daniel we came to live in a shed on our 2ha property in Marlo. We thought we might have to eat possum pie and wallaby stew, but 10 years later, I still haven’t had either.

Dan went to school at Orbost High, and Dave and I both got work, while building our house at the same time. We worked at the local Protea Farm, and also a friend told me about some work in the Marlo Hotel in the kitchen.

So we had hardly been here a week and I had two jobs, and Dave one. One of our ideas was, before we came was that we would get to know everyone by going to the hotel on a Friday night and that would be our family night out. Well, I went to the pub every Friday night, but under different circumstances to what we thought.

Dave was the one meeting the locals, while I was the aquatic engineer, washing their dishes. Fortunately I like washing dishes--water therapy. Dave worked at the Protea Farm, the Ostrich Farm and the local small timber mill, and we both became involved on the committee of the Marlo Ocean Rescue. Dave was elected to the committee and dragged me along as his pencil.

I became secretary treasurer for eight years. Next I became involved with the Women of the Snowy River. This was the beginning of something wonderful for me, and the Uniting Our Rural Community Project.

It enabled us to build a mosaic pathway in the Forest Park in Orbost. This pathway was inspired by the mighty Snowy River, a pathway flowing through time. This was a wonderful experience of how you all work together and each small tile laid is the foundation of a united story a united community. I look at the pathway now and am proud of what we have all achieved.

After this I went on to be involved with other projects, including the carving of a flood maker which also stands in Forest Park and the creating of banners to hang over McKillops Bridge, another project bringing people together. Because of my involvement in these programmes and the people I met, I was asked to join a committee trying to fund and build a Community Exhibition Centre.

This has been the best experience. This project has involved so many people, from every area of the community. You walk into this building and it has spirit. A building where everyone can share and enjoy the benefits it will bring to all the community.

The latest project I am involved with is the Magical Garden Community Pathway Project being undertaken by the WwWB to unite the rainforest centre to the main street, with sculptures and secret places to explore. This project is just beginning, and I am sure it will be as rewarding as the mosaic pathway.

This is my story, it may seem to be about buildings, projects and community, and I do have other parts of me, but I have gained many personal skills and self esteem from all of these projects and most of all, met some great people and found my place. It does my heart good to feel that maybe I have helped in some small way to make this a better, closer and more co-operative community.

I know without the involvement of everyone – none of these projects would have been possible, but there is someone who stands out. I would like to thank Ruth Hanson. Ruth is one of the most impressive, unselfish people I have met.

She has shared her skills in teaching others, given her time tirelessly, struggled against adversity; she had a vision and has realised that vision in this building. No cliques – no prejudice – each person being appreciated for what they are, can and do give.

Suzanne Davies
Buchan Group

Where do I start my story?! I was born in Melbourne and grew up in a small country town in the Dandenong’s called Tecoma. I have such wonderful memories of growing up in this small close knit community that when I left to live and work in Melbourne at the age of 17, I missed the sense of community and belonging.

I worked in Melbourne for four years as a secretary, then went travelling around Australia for a year, meeting many amazing people. When I returned to Melbourne the thought of living back in the “rat race” did not appeal to me at all. So from then on I have always lived out of the city but commuted for my working commitments.

Over many years in Melbourne I worked in jobs which included secretarial, hospitality and driving trucks. My first husband and I bought our first home in Millgrove and had two beautiful children, now 23 and 18 years old. One Easter 17 years ago we came to visit friends that had moved to a place called W Tree north of a place called Buchan. Both of us fell in love with the area and decided to relocate our family.

We bought a property north of Buchan in a smaller remote farming community at Murrindal. My marriage ended after 20 years and I found myself a sole parent until I met my soul mate who has three beautiful children of his own, our blended family are so close and get on so well we could not wish for better.

I was employed as the kindergarten assistant in Buchan and worked there for 10 years. This was a wonderful and rewarding experience and with volunteering on different committees I got to know my community and district very well.

For the past six years I have been employed as the coordinator of the Buchan Neighbourhood House and Outreach Arts Officer for Buchan and District through (ANEG) Arts Network East Gippsland. This has been an amazing, rewarding and often challenging position but never mundane.

We offer many differing services for our community and district to access here. They range from courses, classes or workshops under Adult Education, to art based experiences through my ANEG hat in music, drama, art, craft, singing and exhibitions.

We have also produced four Buchan Foothills Festivals that I coordinated with the assistance of Ev Schmidt, Drew Beaven, Buchan Arts Council and many volunteers from our community. When I first heard about the Women who Mean Business – Selling Gippsland’s Finest – through the Gippsland Women’s Network and ANEG I was so excited as I knew other women in our area would love to have the opportunity to participate in this wonderful project.

I presented a power point presentation at the February, 2004 launch announcement of the CSF Grant by John Thwaites MP at Sale. This was a fantastic day, meeting so many dynamic women and sharing our stories.

Since then the Buchan and District women have been busy with workshops and meetings and are working towards opening a Gallery here in Buchan for talented artists and craftspeople to showcase and sell their beautiful creations.

This project is providing our local women with opportunities to develop skills, to enhance their self esteem and confidence and network. This fantastic tourism opportunity, when up and running, will increase business opportunities as well as promote our district.

I thank the State Government’s Community Support Fund and Art’s Network East Gippsland for their support and all the local talented women who are involved in this project for their time, enthusiasm, energy and friendship as well as our project officer Kate Earle. We plan to open the Gallery in September 2005 and will advertise our grand opening.

We hope you will come and celebrate with us on this big day.

Maya Fraser
Morwell Group

I arrived from WA in the Latrobe Valley with a suitcase, my little silky terrier and my husband to be, Gerard. We initially stayed in Yinnar and I proceeded to try and find my way in this new place that I found myself in.

This was not the first time that I had undergone a change in home. My travels began when I was two-and-a-half years old. I was born in Perth to parents who migrated to Perth from The Netherlands leaving, their family behind.

At this point two of my father’s brothers lived in Perth, but when they left to go back my parents became home sick and this began our journey. We migrated to South Africa as there was work there and my parents could not afford to go straight back to Holland.

Our residences consisted of hotels and then we progressed to living in a group of flats in Pretoria, where we made some close friends. During this period I started school, first in a private school and then in a convent boarding school.

My father found work in a variety of jobs, and eventually worked on the railways. This meant more shifts, first to a caravan park and then to a place called Oogies which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. There we lived in a caravan with annexe, one water tap between several people, and a memorable fibre glass igloo shaped smelly portable toilet.

The coupe de etat was a rusted gallon drum sitting on top of a rusted tin shed that served the men as a shower, once a week. Due to the politics of the time the blacks lived in a series of tents some distance from us and we had a night watch man called Piccaninny who I would sit and talk to for hours, not the done thing at the time.

The next stage saw us in Holland where I got to know some of our family from both sides of the family. My mum and I went first and were left at an old run down farm house that my parents had bought off Oom Willem who had returned to Australia with his son, sight unseen.

The place had roof tiles missing and the grass was almost as tall as me. How my Mum coped I have no idea because we knew nobody and the place was barely fit to live in. Mum started cleaning the place to make it liveable.

There was no bathroom and no proper kitchen as this was in part of the stables where cows normally spend the winter. While there I started school in a two teacher country school in Siegerswoude; this was another huge adjustment in language and culture. We lived there until strong winds made the walls move and it was colder in the house than in the VW that was our car.

We moved on to Drachten and back to living in a flat and of course another shift of schools. Mum got homesick for Australia and my parents no longer felt that they fitted in; this meant we were returning to WA and another change in language, culture and schools. Once we got back to my birth place it meant that my peers no longer saw me as Australian and this caused me much pain as this was my home.

Much of my childhood has been filled with a deep sense of being different and the feeling of not fitting in. On the other side of the coin I have married into the most amazing welcoming family who have accepted me as one of them, giving me an extended family support system that never ceases to fill me with wonder and appreciation.

Gerard and I now have four precious children, Brandan 11, twins Celeste and Estelle, eight, and Yolanda, three. While being busy raising our beautiful children I have slowly made a niche for myself in the Latrobe Valley. Participating in community activities has helped me to feel connected to where I live.

The Gippsland Women who Mean Business project has increased my confidence by extending my personal networks and by allowing me to apply my skills. It has given me a means to become more involved in the community, too look at ways that I can help to contribute in a positive manner, to help make a difference.

As a result of WwMB, I have taken up opportunities to speak on Gippsland FM and attend networking breakfasts. I have met wonderful people whose skills and abilities leave me feeling humble. The support I have received has inspired me to take up my pencil and start drawing. I have lived in the Valley for about 14 years, and feel I’ve finally found “home”.

Besides community, my husband’s family has played an important part in helping to create a sense of belonging. A place where I can belong.

Patricia Dennis

From POW Camp to idyllic B and B Patricia Dennis shares her inspiring journey I will start sharing my life story from the time I was released from a Japanese concentration camp at the end of World War Two.

I was held as a Prisoner of War with my family for three-and-a-half years in Manila, the Philippines. Fortunately, we all survived this horror but then encountered a further life and death journey on the David C. Shanks, an American troop ship as we travelled in an ever-diminishing convoy through Japanese torpedo infested waters off northern Australia.

I was a little girl of 10-and-a-half years who could not read, write, spell or do arithmetic. I became a guinea pig for the Education Department of Sydney. At 17 I was offered a place at the University of Melbourne but I declined—the previous six-and-a-half years had been crammed with catching up and keeping up. Instead, I went off to learn and then taught the Remington accounting machine, with the dream of travel—with this skill, I could always get a job.

While in the world of commerce, I had yet another dream: I wanted to do modelling. I met Mr Peter Fox who suggested I go to the Greta Myers “School of Charm”. I joined the Mannequins Association and soon I was walking up and down the catwalk in the latest fashions of the day, and featuring on magazine covers and inside knitting books.

In 1954 I won “The Australian Beach Girl of the Year” title. I married 18 months later at 21 and sailed to Europe for a two month skiing honeymoon and then on to London. I travelled all over England and to Europe doing film and modelling work until I found I was pregnant with our first little girl. We then returned to Australia, and settled for a four year stint on Grandpa’s farm in Beaconsfield. This gave birth to my great and enduring love of country life.

We built a house at Hampton by the beach and moved to the city during the week and back to the farm every weekend and school holidays, with now, four little girls! During the past 20 years I have lived in Albert Park—my girls have all grown up. I took up painting and writing and had a fulfilling social and working life—but my heart was calling me back to the country.

I scanned the property section of The Weekly Times every week for years, but there was always something that didn’t quite match what I wanted. Foot sore and weary, I stopped buying The Weekly Times and asked the Universe to give me a pointer. Sometime later, I was travelling on a city tram when I spotted a paper left by a commuter.

Something told me to pick it up and take it home…I did so, and when I glanced at the property section…there was my dream patch! The address was Yinnar South. I’d never heard of this place, but I phoned the agent and was there, at 570 Jumbuck Rd, next morning.

The three level mud brick house with tall gables stood majestically among rain drenched gumtrees and bushland. It was swept about by beautiful gardens and patios. Beside it stood a smaller replica known as “Jumbuck Cottage”, a bed and breakfast cottage.

Plus a large American barn—an instant summer studio! Everything in perfect order—ready to move into. Amazing. It was a long way from anyone I knew but here I was, signing up to buy and retreat into 3ha of trees, singing birds, visiting wallabies, resident wombats and echidnas, all within coo-ee of the Morwell State Forest.

The bed and breakfast business offered me opportunity for income plus keeping in touch with people: people have always been my life. I took over on January 10, 2004 and opened for business, rated Four Star by the RACV, two weeks later. I want to offer “health and healing” packages, including massage and painting classes, so have taken several TAFE courses and am now ready to roll with this next step.

Learning the computer has been uphill but I’m getting there. Having my own web site is a great incentive. So instead of some predictions by well-meaning friends that I may be swallowed by boredom and loneliness, my venture has turned out quite the opposite. My dream come- true has added more dimensions to my life and increased my feeling of wellbeing.

I am supported by my association with people involved with Latrobe City’s “Creative Gippsland” project which includes a touring guide to arts, culture and heritage and as a member of the B&B and Retreats Accommodation through the Traralgon Information Centre.

Now I am meeting many new and likeminded ladies connected with the WwMB in the Latrobe Valley and am thrilled to be making a small contribution in time and effort. Also, the on-going workshops in skills development are marvellous. Everyone has made me feel welcome and part of the community.

I feel I belong. I encourage everyone who has a workable achievable dream to persevere and you will get there. Living life to the fullest will give you every challenge that you need to grow in the strengths you never knew you possessed and confidence to take many more steps in life.

I can see that I have already, one year on, become so caught up in my dream—that I will have to rent a villa in France to paint, and, take a cookery course while I’m at it! Enjoy. Jumbuck Cottage Bed and Breakfast, 570 Jumbuck Rd, Yinnar South, ph. 5122 3344.

Mary Gilbert

Mary Gilbert, of Buchan, shares her journey… A big “Sea Change” came for me nearly 20 years ago, when I married and moved from living and teaching in the inner urban area of Melbourne to the picturesque, remote rural area of Buchan, in East Gippsland.

I dearly loved my “single-in-the-city” life and all that cosmopolitan Melbourne had to offer but the realisation of my great dream to “one day marry and settle in the country as a family person” far outweighed any lure of the city!

So it was that romance in the high plains (but that’s another story!) brought me to my life in Buchan. What a change it was...from teaching in multi cultural environments to teaching rural country/ farming children...and from living in central metropolis Melbourne to that of the rural Buchan!

This is where my “life in the community” story really begins...... After a few years full time teaching in Orbost, I took family leave and turned from my thoroughly rewarding teaching career path, to that of being a full time family person, raising two young children with my husband.

Life was still very hectic, living on our little bit of paradise in a little tractor shed-come-hut. With no running water or mains electricity, this would be a test for anyone, but we did it for many years while building our beautiful home, using 90 per cent recycled and scrounged materials.

During this time I became involved with the local community, particularly through our wonderful Buchan Neighbourhood House. This was such a spirited place for meeting social and educational needs of the community. I loved the chance to make new friends and share in community events, the likes of which just doesn’t happen in a city lifestyle.

During those early years of child rearing I pursued many learning activities to quench and enhance my creative appetite. I pursued a life long interest in herbal medicine and gained much knowledge through the particular courses on offer. It was here that I became interested in producing “herbal “potions and lotions” and started my popular line of Buchan Bush Remedies.

After 10 years of producing a particular product I still have many favourable comments of user satisfaction! I have promoted it at many markets in the district and even supplied to practitioners in the city. I also developed my creative skills in art, needlework and craft, including creating the popular American Indian Dreamcatchers.

I also undertook, with a friend, to organise and promote the Mystic Market -a local showcasing of holistic “mind, body and spirit” resources and practitioners. I enjoyed the networking with many likeminded people and found it personally rewarding to put many folk on a track to finding emotional and spiritual, and some alternative, support in their times of need.

Many endearing friendships resulted. Following the Mystic Market I became a founding member of the Buchan Foothills Festival which gave opportunity for some different cultural and aesthetic elements to come to Buchan. The Festival-Market also provided a venue for showcasing local artistic talents and I was able to promote and sell my Bush Remedies and cottage craft products.

Throughout the years, while maintaining a teaching commitment, I’ve enjoyed being involved in many community events in Buchan and in promoting Buchan as a piece of paradise. Now the WWMB project has been the cake with the icing for me. Besides bringing new opportunities for development and growth in the community, particularly for its artists, this project is enabling me to gain new skills which I can use to promote my family’s new venture.

For years, I had kindled the idea of having our own little cottage craft shop showcasing local art and craft, so: “Yes!” “Not ones to lie idle” soon we will realise our ambition of opening a Farmstay Accommodation and Cottage Craft business. We hope to provide a base for travellers and families to stay and experience this area of East Gippsland.

I will house my range of products, along with other locally produced art and craft work, in a permanent display for the public to peruse and hopefully purchase.

I am indebted to the WWMB project, to the women in the Buchan group and particularly to Kate Earle, for giving me the skills and encouragement to realise this great dream-a dream almost as big as my earlier one of “one day marrying and settling in the country to raise my family”. Bush remedy works wonders

Tammy Dawson
Waterwatch Facilitator for the Latrobe Valley

I grew up on a dairy farm near Warragul and enjoyed every minute of it. My parents loved to camp by rivers and go bushwalking so this love of the outdoors was transferred to me from an early age.

Eventually, enjoying the outdoors was not enough and I began to feel strongly about protecting our natural heritage. I completed a bachelor of science degree (conservation biology and ecology) with honours at La Trobe University, Bundoora.

During the four years of study I missed Gippsland and decided I would go back and campaign for the environment in my own community. After a few months I landed my position with Waterwatch, and now take pleasure in helping others care for the environment.

At Waterwatch we conduct school education programs and run community events to raise awareness of environmental issues and to give people an opportunity to have their say.

Most of all, I enjoy developing the Waterwatch community water quality monitoring program which recruits volunteers to monitor river health. It is great to work with a network of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and skills, working towards a common goal.

Volunteering is something I love to do myself and have done so often, including a trip to South Africa in September last year to monitor wildlife for five weeks.

The great thing about volunteering is that you can learn new skills, provide a service to the community and the environment, participate in training opportunities, meet new people with a common interest, mix with influential people, and most important of all work towards bringing about change.

There are opportunities to all these things when volunteering to monitor water quality with Waterwatch. No prior experience is needed and all training is provided. Your data is collected and put into reports for natural resource management agencies and organisations.

Waterhole Creek monitoring groups in Morwell have recently decided to work together to enhance the health of their waterway. The creek currently exhibits high levels of phosphorus and the groups are working on identifying the source of the pollution. There are many possibilities however, so it could take a while.

The groups are looking for extra monitors to help assess the impact of the stormwater drains entering the creek. Another example of a Waterwatch monitoring project is a new one involving environmental flows impacts in the Thomson River.

In this instance the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and Southern Rural Water are looking to recruit Waterwatch volunteers to begin the first ever community environmental flow monitoring program in Australia!

Karen De Gaunza Iiama
My Name is Karen de Gaunza formerly known as Karen McDonald Massage Therapist, I started working as a masseur which is what I thought I wanted to do, I realized however that massage was just a catalyst for what it was that I truly wanted and that was to help people consciously take an active part in their lives and their own healing.

Participating in many personal development workshops myself in an endeavour to discover what I wanted out of life and to deal with the issues at hand I discovered that some people found it necessary to look for support when faced with need to take action in their lives rather than to continue on as they were. A support group was established to enable people to continue their journey in between workshops and as a result I found myself assisting in the running of these groups.

Over the past few years however I have been working to change the structure of my business as I found that it did not meet my needs or the needs of many of my clients. One of these changes was the decision to work from home, after working in the main street of Traralgon which I found too busy and noisy I move my business home which is much more conducive to the nature of my work.

So with personal and spiritual awareness and development being what the clients appear to require I have found myself in a position of facilitating a supporting and nurturing group of women, within this group we help each other to walk our chosen paths supported and encouraged by like minded women actively celebrating the uniqueness of each other in being the best we can be. I have found that my work has actually started to resemble my life as I am using more of the healing and knowledge that I have with those who come into my life. I am surrounded by a strong network of amazing women, who support the work that I do with their own incredible strengths and talents of healing and guidance.

It is with in mind that I have established IIAMA Life Enhancement Centre where I offer a wide range of healing and spiritual modalities including massage, reiki, aura cleansing, crystal and colour healing as well as various workshops and classes, including meditation and tarot. As well as the services I can personally offer I have a network of people who do many other amazing things to refer to if necessary.


Lyn Willmott

In the late eighties I left Melbourne fired with enthusiasm, certain my dream of operating a successful pottery would come to fruition. I built a workshop next to my house on the South Gippsland Highway, built my own large kiln, and set about creating a range of pottery and sculpture that reflected my love for our planet.

What foolishness! Why had I not researched the area — both financial and physical— before diving into such a fantasy? Why do women like me fly by the seat of their pants and expect their dreams to simply take shape because that’s what they want?

I quickly learned that sound business practice was just as important as a heart filled with creative passion. So after years of single-handedly struggling to run a pottery, a bed and breakfast, and an after-school clay workshop for kids I walked away from the entire project, totally broke and sick at heart.

I was over 60, almost crippled with a potter’s ‘back’, with no money — life seemed grim indeed. Then ‘miraculously’ I was diagnosed with Type Two diabetes. Horrified, I changed my diet and immediately began to lose weight.

This encouraged me to start walking and soon my back problems eased. The more I exercised the fitter I became. Thus my interest in metabolism and strength training blossomed. At 63, I decided to go back to TAFE and get a Fitness Trainer’s qualification.

My passion for creative expression has not disappeared, but these days I’m aware that we must take responsibility for our bodies. If we eat well, and exercise each day our energy levels automatically lift, our self-esteem feeds into a strong sense of self. Also it’s possible to put a halt to serious physical deterioration if one changes one’s lifestyle.

To prove what I am saying — now aged 66 I am as fit as I was in my twenties. My passion now is to pass on this message of renewal. Anyone can do what I am doing! I run strength training classes in Yarram (seven classes, twice a week) for both men and women — mainly over 40, although there are a few younger people involved.

I am trying to get a book— Fitness over 40 — published ... but you know what the publishing business is like, I shall be dead before they realise what I am on about. I would like to travel around country areas, helping form groups of women who then exercise twice a week using my book (I might have to publish it myself) as their guide.

I will help get the women started and advise them on what equipment to buy. They will need dumbbells and leg weights and I estimate they will spend about $70 each to begin with, (plus maybe $40 — the group would pay me for an hour’s tuition) but after that they are home free. Anyone who pays money at a gym knows that this is an excellent deal.

It has been proven that working with weights in this way is better than using high tech. gym equipment and of course I will be around for help and guidance. I will start a web page so people can ask questions online. So this is my idea.

I think it is important that older people keep fit, but this seems very hard in the bush. I know once people get together and ‘workout’ that they enjoy themselves, and they will find it much easier to commit.

This is the hardest part of keeping fit, making the commitment. PS: I have written a couple of books, but that’s another story (smile). Lyn’s e-mail: lynwillmott@dodo.com.au

Val Murphy

I grew up on a dairy farm at Yinnar, and married a potato farmer from Thorpdale. My family (Coleman) were pioneers in the Yinnar district— my grandfather Alfred Coleman served on Morwell Shire Council for 13 years and served as shire president in 1941.

Coleman Parade, in Churchill, was named after him. Throughout the years, I have learnt to have a real “love of the land” and appreciate the beauty of nature and “God’s own country”.

I have been invited to promote potatoes throughout Australia through cooking demonstrations and talks, which help raise money for many different charities, filed days, food festivals and the Royal Melbourne Show. (With a surname of Murphy, it’s rather appropriate.)

As my children finished their education I found my involvement in school councils, parents’ club, school canteen, scouting, guides, brownies and all the sporting activities weren’t happening any longer and gradually I started my own business in tourism. “Potatoes, Paddock to Plate Coach Tour” is a one-day tour for groups and clubs who enjoy a day’s outing in the country.

The tour includes a potato lunch and potato cooking demonstration of sweets such as potato icecream and potato after dinner mints. It’s a fun day out with potatoes as a theme. As we travel the country roads around the potato growing district of Thorpdale I share jokes, poems and stories of life on the land. A visit to my large country garden is included, and tour participants enjoy meeting the friendly farm animals.

Now I have moved into extended stays of up to one week in other areas of Gippsland. We live in such a diverse area and we have so much to offer in tourism ... Walhalla, Tarra Bulga National Park, Port Albert, Wilson’s Promontory, Powerworks and more.

The tours help our small country towns with tourism dollars while bringing our “city consumers” closer to their “country cousins”. I also enjoy being a volunteer for the Country Fire Authority. My husband Phil has been captain of Thorpdale CFA unit for 25 years while I’m involved in Critical Incident Stress (CIS) aspect of brigade work.

I’ve a lasting impression of the stress that fires can cause as I spent two weeks in the Omeo and Gelantipy districts when fires hit there in summer 2003.

Palliative care is something else I enjoy – that is, helping people who are less fortunate than me. It’s a special privilege, sharing people’s lives with support and assistance.

I’m also a member of our local Thorpdale Uniting Church. Our church was built 13 years ago, largely by volunteer labour. Then we grew paddocks of potatoes, reared calves, catered for functions and generally raised funds to pay for our beautiful building.

Baw Baw Shire acknowledged my community work with an achievement award for outstanding community service in 2004. This followed an award from Narracan Shire as citizen of the year in 1995, and an award in 1977 from the Thorpdale Potato Festival for my work in promoting the potato industry.

The Thorpdale Potato Festival has run for 25 years, always successfully. I have been publicity officer for about 10 years. I feel honoured to be able to live and serve as an active community member in this beautiful part of Gippsland.

Evelyn Schmidt

Evelyn Schmidt ... a member of Buchan Women’s Network Project. I moved to Buchan about seven years ago and stepped with enthusiasm into volunteering in the community.

After two years l found myself involved in so many committees and projects that l was spending all my time on this task. I was doing to much and began to burn out. This began to have an effect on my own personal projects including renovating my home.

I quit all the committees and stayed at home and also spent more time with my now eight year old boy, Liam. A number of events started to affect me including the looming bush fires of 2003, the isolation of being at home alone most of the day and with nothing motivating me but myself, and after six years really feeling to far away from good friends and family.

The fact that it was winter wasn’t helping. I would basically do the chores and watch TV. Driving into the township l would feel an invisible wall rise in front of me and a heavy weight drop down on me. I was starting to feel depressed.

There had been talk in the town about the empty Post Office building since the people who ran the post had bought the General Store and amalgamated the two businesses. Most of the talk was around using the building as an art and craft shop.

Another business in the town, the Willow Café had also been closed for about a year and the main street of town was looking unused. Buchan has the Caves, and visitors to the caves total around 120,000 per year.

Unfortunately most of those people don’t stop in the town. Initially l looked into opening the Post Office as an Art and Craft Gallery and operate it as a small business. I had contacted the councils Economic Development Department and gained some information.

I had contemplated this idea further and decided that the task was too great and daunting on my own. Some information about the WwMB project came to me in the post and the centre coordinator who knew that I was experiencing some difficulties talked about how this project could be used to open the Post Office and began to encourage my involvement.

I was actually really glad to see that this project was to be with women only, even though I don’t usually gravitate towards women based projects. I thought this would be a warm way to re enter Buchan.

Another positive aspect about this project is that it seems to have also brought together Buchan women from different backgrounds and outlooks: farmers, elders, locals, those seen as “hippies or alternative”, conservatives, greens and troublemakers.

These descriptions are generalisations, of course. But Buchan is a town of diverse personalities and opinions. So as things always go in swings and roundabouts, we now have new landlords at the Buchan Caves Hotel and they have made some great changes including outside seating, great menu and a nearly finished veranda.

The Roadhouse and General Store have made some changes and renovations and we are now waiting for the Café to re open. The owner of the Black Marble Hut is revamping after some personal losses in his family and Buchan is already looking livelier.

The next thing needed is the Buchan Gallery at the old Post Office building. We have now completed our workshops and have the skills, business plan, and a grant application in progress. We still need to really plan out our Budgets and are starting to network into the other surrounding towns to look at a tourist route from Bairnsdale to Bruthen, Buchan, Nowa Nowa and Lakes Entrance.

Everyone is really keen to open the Buchan Gallery and get some of the 120,000 visitors to the Caves Reserve to stop in the town and generate employment and income to a rural town with few employment opportunities. Needless to say l have once again stepped in with enthusiasm and there is no time to watch the TV.

Imogen Prior

I have enjoyed living in Orbost for four years and have developed wonderful friendships and a deep sense of amazement for the beauty of the landscape. East Gippsland surely is a paradise of forest, mountains, rivers, beaches and people.

I previously lived, worked, studied and had a lot of fun in Canberra for 14 years while raising my son as a sole parent. He is now 25 and is living in Tweed Heads. In Canberra I had many opportunities to explore feminist theories and therapies whilst working with ACT Family Planning as a sexual health educator and youth clinic coordinator.

I was also involved off and on with the ACT Incest Centre as a member of the Collective. Half way through a BA at ANU a relationship break up and burn out knocked me for six and after years of strong personal development I found myself suddenly plummeting and struggling with my self-esteem. My darling son was in his 13th year and was travelling through his own turbulent adolescent passages and rites.

Something had to give and it did, I was presented with the opportunity to have a year out living in a mud brick house on a property called ‘Singing Stones’ at Cabanandra — nestled in the foothills of the Monaro Tablelands leading to the Jingalalla River, East Gippsland.

It was just what I needed and while the year did present new challenges and stresses, as I had never lived in an isolated bush setting before, on the whole it was spiritually healing and physically strengthening.

My son and I had many new experiences, including: horse riding, milking Ruby the cow, collecting eggs, wood chopping, meeting the local “hippies”, swimming nude in the tranquil rivers, listening to the sounds of the bush, seeing starry nights, growing vegetable gardens — in short, all that an ‘alternative’ lifestyle encompasses, including Distance Education for my son!

I was fortunate to meet my current partner and on moving back to Canberra being offered an exciting position as coordinator of a young women’s refuge. We now have a little tornado called Jessica, age six, who keeps us on our toes and adds bundles of love and happiness to our lives.

My partner Jurg runs Kanooka Nursery from our property and I will be starting my integration aide language and literacy traineeship at Orbost North Primary School in 2005. I also belong to the Orbost Belly Dance Troupe “Strait From The Hip” and we have performed at several Snowy River Art Network performances.

We were one of the local acts engaged to entertain cyclists participating in the Great Wilderness Bike Ride held in April 2004. I believe passionately in making the most of what the local community has and showcasing it to the rest of the State.

This is also why I am a Friend of the Rainforest Centre. I love being involved in Women Who Mean Business. It has come at a good time for me as I have been at home with Jessica for five years, settling in a new town, and just starting to venture out into the work force to meet people and build up my confidence and my skills.

I think every woman who has been at home as a primary parent and out of the work force should be given an opportunity to re-enter the life outside gently with the support of other women.

June Alexander
WwMB Newsletter Editor

The project management committee has asked me to introduce myself to you, so here goes! Firstly, I am delighted to be invited to edit your newsletter, starting with this summer edition.

This new role comes at a time when I am feeling very much like a bird out of a cage – in December I returned to Gippsland to live after 20 years of living and working in Melbourne.

When I moved to Melbourne I worked initially on The Melbourne Herald, and then for the next 19 years, I worked as a journalist on The Weekly Times newspaper. This period included seven years as Country Living editor and 11 years as the columnist, Miranda.

I grew up on a beautiful property at Iguana Creek, beside the Mitchell River, in the upper reaches of the Lindenow Valley. I was a dairy farmer’s daughter and my childhood was largely divided between helping with the cows and calves, wandering in the bushland and along the river adjacent to the family property, and burying my head in any literature I could lay my hands on.

I began a journalism cadetship with The Bairnsdale Advertiser in 1969, at age 18, and have been a journalist ever since. While living in Melbourne (necessary, to work on The Weekly Times), I always said my heart was in Gippsland.

I resigned from my full-time work on The Weekly Times in March 2004 and set up a home office, working a few days a week for The Pakenham Gazette. Just prior to Christmas, I took another big step and sold my Melbourne property so that I could return to Gippsland to not only work, but to live.

I explained to my four children (Shane 32, Rohan 30, Ben 29 and Amanda 28) that such a move at this stage in my life was important for my heart and soul ... parts of me that I tended to neglect while pursuing a full-time career in the city.

My children understand my desire to return to the country and their love and encouragement has meant a lot to me. Being involved with Gippsland women is helping me to re-connect and adjust to the country way of life. I am delighted to be working with and living among like-minded, passionate women. I find your stories so inspirational.


Deb Bye - Station Manager, Life FM Gippsland
WwMB Media Workshop Instructor

After 17 years with ABC Radio, Deb left in June 2003 to take up a full-time volunteer position as Station Manager of Gippsland's Community Radio Station - Life FM. The station received its permanent license in August 2004 after commencing broadcasting in Oct 2003 on a temporary license.

Deb joined the ABC in 1986 after working in Christian Community Radio for 4 years. Deb made a strong impression in Gippsland in her role as broadcaster / Manager at the ABC’s Gippsland regional office in Sale, where she encouraged a clear focus on regional issues.

Deb played a key role in establishing a radio studio on campus at the University of Central Queensland, where she tutored electronic journalism, and was also studying journalism, communication and psychology. Her work has been publicly recognised by the conferring of several prizes for journalism.

Two University Prizes from UCQ, High Commendation in the Order of Australia Media Awards in 1995 for a radio series on the Sale RSL’s 75th Anniversary, a 1999 Victorian Community and Local History Award for a radio series on the Omeo Oriental Goldfields and in 2003 Debbie shared Overall Winner of the Victorian Community and History Awards with author Ann Synan for their work on the West Sale Migrants History which resulted in a book "We Came With Nothing" and Debbie's radio series "Footprints In The Tar".

Since leaving the ABC, Debbie has started her own company - Manna Media - through which she conducts media workshops, facilitates meetings, records audio histories and general voiceover work. Debbie studied voice for seven years and sings with her Church choir and at other Church functions and services. Apart from singing, Debbie enjoys spending quality time with her cats, and bringing people in Gippsland together via the medium of radio.

Beth Harris - Anchor Web Design
WwMB Webmaster

Beth Harris, Women who Mean Business Webmaster and founder and director of Anchor Web Design, established her own web design business in 2000. The Women who Mean Business project website is a typical Anchor Web Design format packaged into a neat, professional and effective website to suit local business, community groups and events.

Beth believes in old fashioned customer service and sees the need for a quality local web design service to rival the expensive city companies. She doesn’t think local businesses should have to pay a fortune to have an impressive website.

When she’s not designing websites, Beth volunteers for the Life FM Gippsland radio station as the IT supervisor and Production Assistant. Her other interests include her love of cats, watching Star Trek, playing the piano and she has keen interest in photography.

Beth has lived in Sale for more than 30 years since her family emigrated from England when she was six months old.

ANCHOR WEB DESIGN “Giving Your Business the Professional Look it Deserves” – www.anchorweb.com.au


Robyn Moore,
Meeniyan - South Gippsland Make up Artist, Theatre Set Designer & Restorer

Robyn Moore prefers to work “backstage”. Without backstage work, the show just doesn’t happen – and Robyn knows how to make things happen.

Her artistic skills were discovered forty years ago, when the newly launched Leongatha Lyric Theatre invited Robyn to be the “make-up-lady”.

So successful was that debut that she was engaged by the theatre company each year. After several years of this work, Robyn tried her hand at set painting, which led to set design, and, in 1992 she received an award for the Most Outstanding Design in Amateur Theatre, Gippsland. Robyn is now a life member of Leongatha Lyric Theatre.

Robyn’s highly developed aesthetic sensibility has permeated across many genres – everything from clothes, to garden, to the beautiful interior of her home. Robyn also owned and operated a clothing store in Leongatha for several years.

Robyn’s artistic culinary delights began when Meeniyan Art Gallery opened in 2002. She was asked to prepare the food for the exhibition openings each month.

In 2003, Robyn and Lindsay (her husband) opened a stylish restaurant/cafe in Meeniyan called “Watsons on Whitelaw” (Watson being Robyn’s birth name) Robyn’s artistic flair has rubbed off on to her children – Lachie is a graphic artist / photographer and Andrea is a visual merchandiser, now studying architectural interior design – both of them were involved in the design of Watsons.

Editors note: A co-worker added this during our interview. “Wherever Robyn goes she adds a touch of beauty – her food appearing on plates are often mistakenly taken for sculptures. One of the things we all love about Robyn is her ringing laughter, the product of her gorgeous sense of humour.”


Rebecca Gambirra Illume
Cabbage Tree, Far East Gippsland Visual Artist/ Singer / Song Writer

Rebecca Gambirra Illume was born in Nhullunbuy, NT. She was raised in the Northern Territory in an outback environment. Gambirra is of Yolngu Aborigines, North East Arnhemland (Gove Peninsula), NT. Gambirra is from a long lineage of well documented and internationally recognized traditional ceremonial Yolngu painters.

Gambirra is an educator, sharing and exploring aboriginal art, traditions and culture whilst working with various age groups creating murals and paintings.

She is a highly original painter. Her paintings are traditionally based contemporaries. Gambirra draws inspiration not only from her own country and traditions but also from other areas she has visited.

Consequently she has developed an interesting style. She toured Australia for many years with her husband and two daughters, a pilgrimage of many Indigenous communities.

Gambirra now takes great delight in meeting people from all over the world in her Home Studio Gallery in Cabbage Tree Creek, East Gippsland, Victoria where she exhibits her paintings along side works by many other Indigenous artists.

Gambirra’s art gallery also houses her music-recording studio. She is a highly inspired and passionate singer, songwriter and composer of her own music.

Her compositions reflect on the human condition; trials, tribulations and triumphs. Gambirra started to develop musically at a very early age. Mostly self-taught, she has a unique style of smooth soul.

In 1996, Gambirra toured in a leading role for a national musical theatre production, “ Corrugation Road” by Jimmy Chi. Recently she released her first and self-produced album, titled “Kiss of Peace”.

“My work is influenced by a tribal and modern environment, emphasising the underlying spirit and unity of life ... I feel I am a product of our predicament ...” says Gambirra.


Julie Brandsma-Mark
Yarram, Gippsland Co-owner Operator "Sophisticated Kitch", Textile Artist and Author of Children's Stories

Julie tells her personal story ... After completing year 11 I had no idea of what I wanted to do vocationally. At the time a friend of mine decided she wanted to be a dress designer and enrolled at Emily MacPherson College in Melbourne.

I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to high school so I decided to do the same. Although I had absolutely no experience with textiles, (I failed needlework in Year 8).

I was very interested in fashion (my own that is!) as were most of my peers. I thought that catching the train into the city each morning would be a bit of fun.

No longer would I have to wear that horrible grey pleated tunic and blazer, not to mention the disgusting hat and those uncomfortable black lace-up shoes.

Now I could be very grown up and travel in style. The daily walk in high heels to the station and the overcrowded train trip soon lost its glamour but I found my niche at Emily Mac.

It was there that I developed a love of textiles that remains a passion still (my friend left the course after two weeks!)

Halfway through the course I realised that I was pregnant and left to marry. Six months later I was the mother of a beautiful baby girl at the tender age of eighteen. Four years later my son Jamie was born.

During my years at home with my children I made their clothes and decorated my home as I felt a great desire to surround myself with colour and texture. The kids grew and began to become less dependent and I started working part-time as a swimming instructor as I had a strong swimming background as a kid.

I enjoyed teaching and enrolled to do my Matriculation at night school with the thought that if successful I would apply to do primary teacher training. I was successful and commenced three years of study at the then Burwood State College.

I taught at several schools in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the most enjoyable as an art teacher for three years. In 1989 my second husband and I made a conscious decision to move to the Yarram area.

Jodie and Jamie were well established as young adults, Jodie as a secondary art and craft teacher and Jamie undertaking a music degree at VCA. We bought a property in the foothills of the Strezleckis, both finding permanent jobs, everything fell into place – it was perfect. Then in 1993 tragedy struck.

My beautiful and talented daughter died without warning. She was just twenty-eight and her cause of death was Atypical Pneumonia, possibly due to a virus.

Even now I cannot find the words to describe the pain of the grief that overwhelmed me and threatened to destroy me. However, Jodie left behind a wonderful legacy –– her artwork, her diaries of twenty years, her dream journals of many years, film scripts, short stories and videos that she had made.

I suppose her death enabled me to make changes in my life. I left teaching. In 1996 I decided that I would exhibit Jodie’s work and I contacted The Meat Market Craft Centre in North Melbourne.

As part of this Exhibition I planned to print Jodie’s fabric designs so I enrolled in a fabric-printing course at East Gippsland TAFE. It was at TAFE I met Lynne Deacon who is now my business partner.

Lynne and I developed a wonderful friendship. We had much in common creatively. Lynne, who had also trained at Emily Mac, offered her emotional and practical support throughout the process of preparing the exhibition, which was a great success.

Lynne and I continued to meet regularly and decided that we should do something together involving textiles. Sophisticated Kitsch was born! We make handbags out of vintage fabrics, hand-dyed laces, and costume jewellery often found in Op-shops and second-hand stores.


Anya Henkinson
Newborough, Central Gippsland Craft Sculptor/Textile And Visual Artist

Anya’s Story ... Ever since I can remember I have always been interested in Arts and Craft. I believe my artistic desire goes as far back to when I was a small child in kindergarten.

It seems kindergarten must be where my heart belongs as for the last few years I have been working as an assistant at Willow Grove Kindergarten assisting the director in working with the artistic pursuits of young children.

I enjoy preparing the art program and have painted murals on the walls with an Australiana theme. From a more mature perspective I have been fortunate to learn several artistic skills; my favourite being craft sculpturing.

I have worked with needle sculpture, clay sculpture, bread dough and several other mediums but most of my work has been sculpting porcelain dolls. I like creating dolls best of all because of the intricate detail required which encompasses many other craft skills.

After the initial task of sculpturing the doll it needs to be painted several times. The dressing up of these dolls is quite detailed – the dresses, hats, shoes etc are all handmade in the finest and minute detail.

It also involves utilising other craft skills including embroidery, sewing individual design for each doll, knitting, crocheting and ribbon embroidery. The skills I apply to doll design are mostly self taught. I have been fortunate to win prizes with my unique porcelain sculptured designs and have retailed these dolls for specialised city outlets.

I also make fabric teddy bears utilising my sculpturing skills to give each bear an individual face. These teddy bears are all “one of a kind”. Their faces are made from a particular medium that gives soft lines to the sculpture and can be baked in a normal kitchen oven.

Making their precious faces fulfils my “creative hunger” and is not as time consuming as creating the porcelain dolls.


Samantha Abbott
Stratford, East Gippsland Glass Artist

Sam’s Story ... I have been working with glass now for about ten years. Eighteen months ago I established my own business where I operate from a factory in Stratford.

I also run classes three times per week for women and men who are interested in using glass as an art medium. At the front of the factory I have a gallery where some of my glasswork and that of the students is on display for sale. I have had tremendous support from my students and people in the area.

My business is going well and expanding – a real plus considering it is still early days. Much of my craft involves jewellery making. I handcraft chunky type kiln formed glass pendants, bead making and other jewellery.

I have been fortunate to have my jewellery sold in outlets in shops and galleries across Australia. Another one of my specialties is designing and making creative stained glass – incorporating these pieces into mirrors, bowls, plate frames in a head free solder.

I also do glass on glass mosaic table tops which go on wrought iron bases that are made up by another local artist. One of my passions is selling my work at local markets. I have been doing this for many years.

In the early days I was doing markets with my youngest child, Jack, who was six months at the time sitting in a backpack. Abby my daughter of one year would sit with me in the car to be fed and Landa who was three at the time would happily sit under the trestle playing with toys.

It was sheer madness, but heaps of fun for all of us! Many of my weekends are still taken up with markets – local Gippsland markets, Foster, Red Hill, Ballarat and soon to be St Kilda.

All these markets offer opportunity for new clientele and attract many buyers with individual preferences for glass art. I also involve my children in art. Abby, Jack and Landa love to get involved.

They all love creating mosaics; in fact, anything they can get their hand on. It is sheer delight to see their faces waiting with anticipation as we take the priceless glass items out of the kiln post-drying.

I believe creativity is a wonderful gift we can share with our children. I love what I do and I love my little business. Most of all I enjoy the change in people who have come believing they don’t have a creative bone in their body and then watching their sense of pride, joy and achievement when they have created something extraordinary and beautiful.

Some of my friends think I am “nuts” starting work from 4:00 and 5:00am most days and working until late into the evening, sometimes until 10:00pm at night. “Why do you do it they ask?” The time spent is irrelevant to my passion, as there is nothing I enjoy more. I encourage everyone to “just believe in yourself and have a go!”.


Deirdre Jack
Alpine Region East Gippsland, Landscape Artist

Deidre Jack grew up in Mt. Martha. As one of three children, creativity was an important element in the family and extended family. At school Deidre enjoyed art in particular for which it followed a natural progression to undertake a diploma of painting at the Caulfield Technical College (as it was known then).

It was at College where Deidre met Tom, her future husband who was an engineering student. After teaching in High Schools for some years and travelling Kombi style up north for a few more they settled in Swifts Creek in the Cassilis Valley in 1974 on 16 acres of river flats and land dredged for gold, mullock heaps wonderful rhythms on which to base a garden.

Tom built a house over many years which sits mellow and woody in its space in the undulations of the garden. Deidre says, “the creation of this space to live and work in harmony has been an important aspect of for working at home.”

In the mid-’80s after the last of their three children, (all of whom are strongly linked to creative paths) started school, the Victorian Arts Council sponsored Merv Moriarty an artist and art educator to travel to remote areas.

This was her catalyst to return to painting with greater commitment. She has continued this association attending annual workshops and considers Merv to be a mentor in her development.

Deidre’s subject is that of the land particularly the high country where she is working towards a position of strength in talking about the beauty of nature which has a rightness in all its components.

She is drawn to finding patterns in her subjects, to extract the intervals in nature that repeat themselves. Through subtle variations of tone and mark making she forms harmonious patterns on the canvas. Deidre says, “art is about discovery – and seeking to define aspects of her world and aims to express a statement in paint that becomes an increasingly satisfying and poetic visual experience.”

Deidere says she has always felt that she as an artist working in isolation but increasingly she is feeling linked and identifying with the large number of artists in Gippsland.


Maree Wallace
Drouin, West Gippsland Freelance Journalist

A hidden dream to be a writer led Maree Wallace to undergo a correspondence course for a Diploma in Freelance Writing. At this stage in Maree’s life, her third son was playing elite basketball with the Dandenong Rangers and every Sunday morning while he trained for two hours, she would sit in the car and write.

Maree was thrilled to have her first two articles published in the Country Living section in the Weekly Times. She soon became a regular contributor, writing about country people and their many wonderful accomplishments, their tribulations and their hopes.

Her next challenge was to produce a visitor’s guide to the West Gippsland region. Recognizing a niche, Maree set about compiling a list of tourism attractions, obtaining and designing advertisements, writing editorial and organising printing.

With endorsement and support from the Baw Baw Shire, Maree published a 16 page magazine titled “What’s On In Baw Baw,” featuring accommodation, wineries, gardens and nurseries, the arts and crafts, Gourmet Deli products, dining out establishments and natural attractions.

The ‘What’s On” was so popular with tourism operators, visitors and the local community that the very next edition was 24 pages with 110 advertisers. The magazine has gone from strength to strength and now features 40 pages. It covers all the small towns from Noojee to Yarragon Village to Walhalla and Mountain Rivers.

The magazine’s “Calendar of Events” and free advertising service for the community is very well received. Maree says she is regularly on the road, either obtaining advertisements or distributing some of the 10,000 copies personally.

Maree jokingly refers to her car as “a mobile information centre”, as part of her service involves distributing everyone’s brochures, flyers etc on her rounds.

Maree has been involved with the Gourmet Deli Country Tourism Association for nine years now, fulfilling the roles of Secretary, Chairperson, Public Relations Officer and Membership Secretary.

Her most important role is the publishing of a monthly newsletter, keeping all operators informed of what is happening out there at ground level. Maree states, “many people feel very isolated in their daily business and the newsletter and my regular visits serve to unite everyone.”

For Maree, one opportunity has led to another and she is now a member of the Shire Tourism Advisory Board, the Experience Gippsland Joint Tourism Board and the Gippsland Women in Business group.

She has won a Baw Baw Shire Tourism Encouragement Award and her guide won the media prize at the Regional Tourism Awards. Another big challenge for her arose when Maree was asked to conduct tourism classes at the Gippsland Business College, Warragul and Morwell campuses.

Because of her tourism contacts, this was a very practical, hands-on course. Maree said that a big help along her journey was a weekend leadership course conducted by the Women in Agriculture.

She said, “the support and encouragement from other women who are out there, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, was wonderful.”


Dawn Stubbs
Environmental Artist Munro, East Gippsland

I have painted all my life, even as a little girl living in Chelsea, Victoria. I was the second daughter of a timber worker, my father was artistic and encouraged me. I moved to East Gippsland in 1982 onto a 68-acre property where my husband, Chris, a builder, built our home and art gallery called the Australian Wildlife Art Gallery.

We show painted and limited edition reproductions of my wildlife paintings as well as a few other artist’s work. Chris left the building industry in 1987 to pursue art as a sculptor.

We raised our three children on our art which was extremely difficult struggling to keep afloat and just servicing at times. Unlike my father, I encourage my children not to take on art as a career knowing the difficulty but the strong drive to create won through with them.

My eldest daughter, Kelly, graduated form Monash University with a Fine Art Degree in metalsmithing. Crystal, our second daughter, graduated with Honors from Monash University with Fine Art Degree in hot glass sculpture.

My son Layne, the youngest, is an auto electrician with a strong desire to sculpt so consequently spends his spare time in artistic pursuits. I like to describe my works as environmental statements rather than wildlife art.

Much of my art shows a tranquil place in the natural world, something I wish was closer to the truth in our everyday natural history. I have printed several works that scratch the surface of the raw wounds we have inflicted on other creatures that share our planet; these are my greatest pride.

I have grown as an artist over many years and now dedicate a lot of my work to learning the truths about myself, consequently feeling my own satisfaction as being paramount above expertise and critique from outside sources.

I have won several awards and although wonderful at the time, I don’t feel that this is a true reflection of my aspirations as an artist. My type of art is dismissed as sentimental and out of favour in sophisticated art communities but I feel that ultimately at the end of my life at least I tried to tell a wide audience the truth in a language more easily understood than mere abstraction.

At the end of the day I would hope that I might be judged for my life’s work and not an individual painting.


Carolyn Schoo
Milliner Traralgon, Mid Gippsland

Although I didn’t really have an interest in making hats, I enrolled in the revived Millinery Course at GippsTAFE in Morwell in the late 1990’s to “make up the numbers”.

What a revelation! I was so excited I made three hats in the first week (the curriculum suggested that one hat should be completed in the first fortnight).

Millinery suddenly seemed to be the purpose for all of my previous studies in Art, Design, and Fashion. I was teaching music during this time, and it wasn't long before I decided to take the plunge and open my own business in Traralgon under the "HATS AHEAD MILLINERY" label.

Since that time I have made hundreds of hats and headpieces for wear at the races, weddings, parades and charity fundraisers around Victoria and Interstate.

Each hat is hand blocked and stitched in the time-honoured traditions, using only the highest quality millinery materials available today, and I draw on my passion for historical research as inspiration in the development of new designs, trims and finishes so that each design is a one-of-a-kind. am a Member of the Millinery Association of Australia, and an active participant in their Spring Racing Parades, held this year at Flemington.

My fantasy hat from those parades caught the eye of the press and was featured on the front page of the Herald Sun, generating much interest and resulting in many new customers, interviews on ABC Radio, and profiles in regional newspapers and media.

During the initial consultation with a client, we discuss their ideas, the purpose and style of the outfit the hat will complement, and very careful consideration is given to the colour and shape of the client's face.

Two of my two greatest sources of enjoyment are seeing a client’s face light up with excitement when they try on the finished design, and knowing that a Regional area – Gippsland – can offer clients customised millinery that is comparable to anything that can be found in the metropolitan area.


Carmel Stevens
Community Music Director Tubbut, Far East Gippsland

Being an East Gippsland woman has brought about a substantial change in my life. I live with my family in one of the most geographically isolated and remote parts of the Far East, Tubbut.

In terms of distance, Tubbut is about 250 kms from the city of Sale. If you happen to be driving through, don’t blink or you’ll miss it! However this remote location, nestled in the lower foothills of the Snowy Mountains, about 30 kms from the NSW Border, has become my home and my workplace.

For the past 10 years I have been Head Teacher of Victoria’s Most Remote Rural Primary School. This challenging part of my teaching career has seen me become a passionate advocate for music education, rural education and community involvement.

Over the course of my 10 years living in the Far East, I have come to realize that community spirit is an amazing catalyst for getting things done and that in the real sense isolation becomes purely a physical constraint.

I have witnessed first hand our small community uniting during the 1997 drought, the 1998 floods and during the devastating bushfires of 2003, when our small valley was encircled by fire.

During times of crisis no man or woman is an island because through common purpose communities become strongly united and are powerful forces to be reckoned with. Community is more importantly about giving.

To be able to return something of substance or essence back to the community in which you live is also a very valuable component of being a part of one.

My journey in remote community living has now reached this stage. For most of my adult life I believe that I’ve had a sense of community, especially when my four young children were growing up, perhaps this is part of being a woman.

Music has always been my consuming passion. On the Mornington Peninsula I worked as a volunteer taking my unique brand of music to play group, kindergarten and to schools.

When my young family and I relocated to the Far East of Gippsland, I returned to the paid workforce as Head Teacher of Tubbut Primary School.

My obsession continued and with parent and community support, music quickly became a new and exciting curriculum area for the school. Every child who passes through Tubbut’s gates participates in a music program and acquires the basics of guitar.

For quite some time I was reluctant to branch out into this new community and to share what I had to offer. I lacked the confidence to take my music out of the classroom, out of my comfort zone because I felt that I was not skilled enough to offer music on an adult level.

It is strange how challenges and chance meetings present themselves. Even more incredible is how these chance occurrences can set you off in another direction and even give you strength and courage. In 1999 Breast Cancer challenged my whole physical and mental well-being.

After returning to work, with self-esteem at an all time low, I decided to challenge my brain cells with a Masters in Music Education, on line via Distance Education. This I successfully completed last year. Incidentally I have discovered that my brain cells are in fine shape!

It was last year when I met Val Byth from Women’s Electoral Lobby as well as women from the Gippsland Women’s Network. I had this yearning for wanting to give something back to my community.

Of course the something had to be musical and the women just gave me the confidence and the encouraging push necessary to give it a go. I decided to start a guitar group/music jammers session at the local tavern. We started last August and the group, although fluid and mobile is still meeting.

The most surprising thing about all of this is that there are many talented musicians out there who just play for themselves, alone in their lounge-rooms, thinking that they are not good enough. I am now of the belief that music is fundamental to one’s existence and that everyone is good enough.

I frequently travel long distances so that I can play music with friends and I have now joined the “local” Country & Western group, a round trip of 200 kms. I am soon to trial a Friday night music jammers session at the Tavern as well as the Sunday guitar lessons.

In addition to this free community guitar group, my final project for my Masters Degree focused on “Community Music Making” in particular the VicHealth funded sessional singing program currently being run Victoria-wide by singer and musician Fay White.

This involvement has taken me to an even higher level, as I was fortunate enough to network with yet another group of women from all over Gippsland. The Gippsland singing network will join forces again in April.

To take this initiative a step further, I have been honored two years in a row, receiving a Country Education Project Seeding Grant of $1000 for 2003 and $1000 for 2004 for the promotion of Community Music.

The CEP organization seeks to promote positive interactions through innovative programs that will forge connections between schools and communities. My future directions hope to see some of my work published in academic music journals as well as the possibility of continuing on with my studies, with a Music Doctorate being the next level.

At the post bushfire relief dinner the vibes felt were extremely positive. The Women’s Network creed was that anything is possible, all ideas have merit and that having a go can sometimes put you on a new pathway for life.

More importantly this amazing network of women are there to value, guide and support any new initiatives. This meeting also showcased the great diversity and strength of character that currently exists in women within our own localized community.

Everyone is good enough and everyone has something to offer, no matter how small. Yes Rural Women, High Country Women, East Gippsland Women as well as our City Sisters have the ability to bring about change, even sometimes seemingly against the odds.

As I have said both challenge and direction can invariably change one’s life. My story is only one of many, one of an ordinary woman living in a remote area and facing challenge head-on, trying to make some sense and add direction to my life.

Again no woman is an island and I know for a fact that the ability of women to network with each other makes all the difference. Women certainly do mean business and that the power and influence of women should never be underestimated.


Heather Livingston
Artist Buchan, East Gippsland

My husband, four sons and I have lived on a farm in the Buchan district for most of our lives. When the boys were old enough, I went back to teaching for a few years until I retired.

It was then my husband and one of our sons built me a pole/iron gallery/studio/ shed-a place-to-put-things-in. It was great! As I have always said, “EVERY AUSSIE GIRL NEEDS A SHED!”

As soon as I retired I joined the newly formed Bairnsdale Art Group and the Sale Art Group. Everyone who has an interest in art should take it on as a hobby for a start – it is so rewarding socially, culturally and financially.

You cannot beat it. One can do a diploma in art or join a group and be part of tutorials with talented artists as tutors on a regular get together basis in a great learning situation.

The Bairnsdale and Sale groups are the most helpful and generous groups of people and also talented. One spends a small amount on a joining fee and then is rewarded with very great opportunities.

Very capable artists are also members and generously donate their time to encouraging and helping newcomers. Every so often a well known artist comes to facilitate a weekend workshop.

These workshops have been very beneficial to participants. They have taught us how to paint in oils, watercolour, gouache, pastel, charcoals and many combinations. We have painted in groups inside and on location; we have camped, sketched and painted in the Flinders Ranges and the mountains of the Snowy, the rivers, the gorges, the lakes.

We photograph, paint and draw. We have learnt about colour perspective and atmosphere. The opportunity to travel overseas to paint and visit galleries is always available.

The outcome of my experience has been a quite profitable little gallery usually open by appointment. With over 100,000 tourists going thorough the Buchan caves annually now, I decided to open the gallery on a regular basis.

The permit was obtained, the insurance paid, then .... the bushfire of January 2003 wiped out a family farm and many other people in the Wulgulmerang area just north of Buchan.

This event has put my gallery on hold for some time. In the meantime we have started to get an art group going in Buchan and are looking for a venue for local artists to exhibit.

Buchan TAFE is involved through Art Network East Gippsland and we are looking forward to a good group of involved people in 2004. A magazine entitled Australian Artists is a very helpful monthly for budding artists. Good luck to everyone who wants to have a go!

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