Women who Mean Business selling Gippsland 's Finest
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The Official Launch of the Women who Mean Business Project

The Hon. John Thwaites, Deputy Premier, Minister for Victorian Communities, Minister for Environment and Minister for Water, officially launched the Women Who Mean Business – Selling Gippsland’s Finest (WwMB) project at the Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre, Sale, on Thursday, 19 February, 2004.

The State Government’s Community Support Fund has committed to supporting the project over three years with a financial commitment of $379,000. These funds will be utilised to facilitate community leadership, art and business workshops, community forums and employ two part-time project coordinators, a part-time networking officer and develop eight community projects.

The launch of Women who Mean Business, hosted by Wellington Councillor, Darren McCubbin as MC, provided an ideal networking gathering for women from across Gippsland who also had an opportunity to meet and speak with the Minister personally over an informal lunch. Preceding the formality of the launch, representatives from the State Government, Anna Lottkowitz, Rural Women’s Network and Meredith Budge, Adviser to the Deputy Premier, provided an open forum where delegates were given the opportunity to raise issues affecting their rural communities and farming business.

Ms Lottkowitz and Ms Budge responded to varied questions and issues from delegates concerning rural communities and farming constraints. Both representatives were committed to seek further advice post-forum regarding some issues that could not be addressed on the day.

The delegates present at the launch expressed their appreciation of this opportunity to raise issues face to face with government representatives and felt this was an effective means of having a true voice heard. A feature of the launch was the presentation of an effective PowerPoint display, illustrating some of the projects and women who were actively involved in a previous community art project hosted in four locations in the East Gippsland region entitled – UNITING OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES (UoRC) – Rural Women for Cultural and Community Leadership Project.

The UoRC was conducted in four locations in East Gippsland in 1997/98. Four women were on a panel and gave testimonies to the benefits and outcomes the UoRC project had brought to them personally, but most importantly, to their communities.

The panel was interviewed by Deb Bye, Station Manager, Life FM Gippsland, who had also compiled the PowerPoint display along with Beth Harris.

In his address to delegates, Minister Thwaites expressed his delight and responded to the ongoing outcomes that had developed from the previous art project. During his speech he said, “if anyone’s had the opportunity that we’ve had to sit through that demonstration of the work that the Gippsland Women’s Network have been doing over the past years, you can see how you have really led the way in bringing communities together – making communities active and confident, giving people skills that they don’t otherwise think they have, and doing that so jointly we do more than we can (do) individually. All of those projects that you talked about, achieved that.”

Minister Thwaites also said, “I see this project as one of the best projects that the Community Support Fund is able to support. It’s really got everything. You’ve already got a track record here in the past so we know that it’s going to work and I think it’s the sort of project that I’d like to see replicated in other areas of the State”.

Minister Thwaites was presented with a basket of Gippsland produce as a thank you gesture from the Gippsland women.

A collective exhibition of local artists’ work, organised by Eileen Thurgood, EO from Arts Network East Gippsland (ANEG) was displayed in the foyer, illustrating some examples of the high standard of art being created by Gippsland women.

Wellington Shire have given their commitment and support to the Women who Mean Business project. Wellington Shire Mayor John Jago said, “We are delighted by the introduction of this fantastic initiative which promises a great deal for the women of Gippsland and significant benefits for our community as a whole. It will complement and build on existing women’s network programs throughout the Shire, as well as marking a new era for local women in the fields of leadership".

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