Women who Mean Business selling Gippsland 's Finest
  Swifts Creek / Omeo

About the Swifts Creek / Omeo Project

Celebrating our Connections!

The exhibition at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne was a wonderful success with more than 80 people coming to help us celebrate the opening October 14, and many more viewing the works over the month that it was on show.

The artworks looked great and were a stunning example of the skills and talents that are found in such abundance among the women of Gippsland. In the exhibition the artists explored their relationships with their land, their culture and their community through a range of materials including baling twine, felt, ceramics, photography and paint.

They expressed their personal connection with great creativity and, as a result, the exhibition was a great way to show city people a sample of the diversity and beauty of the High Country.

Many thanks are due. Firstly to all the artists who shared their vision with us: thankyou and congratulations. It was a privilege to gain an insight into the forces that move and inspire you. Special thanks go to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Victorian Communities, John Thwaites for opening the exhibition.

Mr Thwaites’ ongoing commitment to the Women who Mean Business Project is greatly appreciated. Special thanks also to two very talented women, Genevieve Fitzgerald for your wonderful singing and Louise Crisp for your insightful poetry: you both helped make the launch a special occasion.

I am also grateful to Deb Bye for being such a masterful Mistress of Ceremonies, Kate Earle for being a quiet, practical helper in the background, Anne and Deb Milligan for letting us borrow your furniture to use as plinths, Deirdre Jack and her wonderful husband Tom who helped install the exhibition (your patience was admirable, Tom!), Penny Carruthers for dismantling it, and Val Bythe for patiently helping with the ‘fiddly bits’.

Thanks also go to Phillipa and Beverley from the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre for all your assistance: you have been very generous. And, of course, a special and heartfelt thankyou to Margo Northey and all the people at the Rural Women’s Network for your help and support.

We couldn’t have done it without you. It is timely also to give credit to all the participants in the Omeo/Swifts Creek working group who have worked tirelessly throughout the entire project.

Everyone involved has generously shared their skills, time and resources in order to benefit their communities and take care of each other - it is a wonderful thing. Particular mention must go to Deirdre Jack, Maureen Webb, Annie Richardson and Kate Leggett who held it together through thick and thin, from start to finish, and were a great support to me personally.

I would also like to recognise the amazing women on the project management committee who originally had the dream all those years ago and have worked tirelessly, supporting the project workers and participants to bring it all to fruition - Mary Salce, Eileen Thurgood, Di Deppeler and Jo McCubbin - all women of commitment and vision.

When I look at the depth and breadth of all the projects coming to fruition right now across Gippsland I celebrate my own connection to such a strong and vibrant community.

Previous Update

The Swifts Creek / Omeo Connections Exhibition was opened by The Deputy Premier and Minister for Victorian Communities, John Thwaites at at 10am, Friday 14th October, 2005 at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, 210 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.

The opening was MC'd by Deb Bye of Life FM Gippsland (formerly manager of ABC Gippsland) and included performances by poet Louise Crisp and singer Genevieve Fitzgerald.

The exhibition runs throughout the month of October.

In the exhibition women artists from the High Country region explore their relationships with their land, their culture, their community and their heritage through a range of contemporary art mediums including paintings, ceramics, print making, textiles, multi media and photography. Landscape artist Deirdre Jack explains her connection: 'We look to find a sense of the sacred in our engagement with the landscape. It is about segments of experience, an environmental essay, an acknowledgement of history, a presence, a quality. It is taking in the land with its stunning natural beauty and its harshness with a connectedness and a respectful addressing of the subject of 'our patch'. In this exhibition, the artists seek to express their connection through their work. Some identify with the people in their community, some with the built environment and some with the 'art of the domestic'. 'It is about connecting us to each other, connecting us to our land and opening out to other people. It is about sharing our riches.'

The main aim of this show is to promote the High Country through art; hopefully to attract tourism to the region and to promote and support local artists. The exhibitors are all from the High Country region.

Our group has now held a very successful opening of our photographic exhibition at the Great Alpine Gallery in Swifts Creek at 1.30pm on Monday 29th August. It was a great day with over 30 women attending from far and wide. The photos looked excellent in a gallery setting and the whole project has certainly been something of which the participants can feel justifiably proud.

I am a firm believer that every single one of us is creative at heart and, if presented with the right opportunity and the right environment, we can realise this creativity. So it has been wonderful for me to see a group of women all work through the process of taking the photos, seeing the potential in the images, learning how to use the technology to best present the images, right through to exhibiting in an art gallery.

When the photos first came back from processing there was a lot of concern that they weren't 'good enough'. But we had a couple of great sessions where we 'windowed' the images and started focusing on the play of light, the beautiful texture of the fleece, the colour and pattern in the photos. Far from being 'not good enough' there were a lot of images of great strength and beauty - we just had to really see them, not just look at them. Then, with the help of a talented high school student we learnt how to work with these ideas in Photoshop. The result is a very strong cohesive exhibition using both digital and SLR photography. Some images are black and white, some colour; some are representational, some abstract. It is a beautiful lasting record of the Back to Back event that was held in Omeo in June, but it is not just that. It also shows the strength and spirit of the community, the beauty of the people and their joy in being a living part of their own culture. It is also evidence of the exhibitor's confidence in their own creativity. There is no going back now!

The Back to Back Photographic Exhibition was officially opened by Project Officer Deb Milligan. The exhibition runs at the Great Alpine Gallery, Swifts Creek until the 12th of September.

The exhibition will also be showing at the East Gippsland Art Gallery, Bairnsdale from 29th September ~11th October


Outcomes so Far:

  • Development process of a project
  • Process of making transition from goal to achievement
  • The importance of planning and being open to ideas
  • Leadership
  • Importance of reflection
  • Problem solving creatively
  • Strategic planning and goal setting
  • Decision making
  • Confidence
  • Group dynamics
  • Working with committees
  • Participant profiles
  • Photographic display
  • Realising that we don't have to create a new event with so many existing ones already in community.
  • Help with organising of Back to Back event
  • Support with publicity, stalls and encouraged young people to become involved, improved the program, contacted
  • tourist authority.
  • Developed program
  • Contacted stakeholders
  • Assisted with the art & craft markets
  • Organised the entertainment
  • Group recognised that it was best to do the project in three parts, Back to Back, photographic exhibition and
  • Connections exhibition.
  • Skills - budget management, photography, story telling/journalling, exhibiting, funding and submission writing and
  • all these skills can be used in other events in the region at another time.
  • Connected with Melbourne galleries.
  • Shire consultation
  • Larger number of visitors to Back to Back event
  • Involved with local restaurants to have lamb on menu on day of Back to Back event
  • Organised own workshops - took initiative
  • Confidence to exhibit own artwork in Melbourne
  • Supporting Back to Back ensured continuation of event for next year.
  • Publicity on National Radio and in weekly times
  • Back to Back was a great success
  • Exhibition at Arts Network and at Swifts Creek Gallery
  • Sourced potential venues for touring exhibition
  • Contacted Galleries both big and small - confidence to bigger and better things for themselves.
  • Deirdre Jack and Deb Milligan having joint exhibition in Melbourne next year.
  • Daniel Jenkins has approached group to do community project for Swifts Creek/Omeo
  • Deputy Premier and Minister for Victorian Communities, John Thwaites opening the Queen Victoria Women's
  • Centre Exhibition. There will be performances by local poet Louise Crisp and singer Genevieve Fitzgerald, both from Gippsland. It will be a very exciting exhibition and we hope to attract a lot of publicity for the artists and for the high country regions. The main aim of this show is to promote the High Country through art, attract tourism, and support local artists. The exhibitors are all from the High Country.
  • Expressions of new found confidence in artistic ability by exhibitors
  • Excitement at exhibiting in Melbourne
  • Realisation of how accessible it is
  • IN-kind list
  • Appreciation of Others and their willingness to help

What's Been Happening:

Events Management Workshop

Twenty women gathered at the Golden Age Hotel in Omeo for Maggie Maguire's workshop on Event Management / Marketing and Promotion. Maggie was an extremely entertaining and knowledgeable presenter who, quite simply, wowed her audience. Initially Maggie mapped the areas of interest in the room to discover that many community groups were represented. As well as the WwMB Project there was: the rodeo; the Picnic races; Music nights; Up the Creek; the District Agricultural Show and others. It is great to know that the skills acquired in this workshop will be spread throughout the community.

We discussed common challenges and realised that they are shared - with that comes the realisation that many solutions are available to be shared too! One point that was recognised is that the Events 'marketplace' so to speak, is very crowded and there is a huge degree of competition. We need to be tough when evaluating our events and their worth.

Maggie then went through the steps involved in planning events and talked at length on the importance of Risk Management. Despite being a daunting subject it can be boiled down to answering three questions: What can go wrong? What will we do to prevent it?

What will we do if it happens? If we can work out a strategy built around the answers to these questions then our projects, participants and the community in general will be safer. This is certainly the message that came through most strongly for me and it has certainly had a profound effect on the way I, as Project Worker, manage these community projects.

After lunch we then talked about marketing our events. Points raised here included: the importance of clearly identifying the market; having measurable objectives; and knowing where to position your promotional materials.

  • Some of the feedback from Maggie's workshops illustrates it's impact:
  • Could the workshop be improved? No it was great!
  • Maggie's delivery is dynamic and to the point
  • My brain is full
  • Fantastic!
  • Good comprehensive information in an easy to use format
  • Fantastic, great presenter, excellent and informative
Photography Workshop, 7 Feb 05

Twenty five budding photographers attended a workshop at Swifts Creek run thru WwMB and funded by ANEG and Victoria University. It was run by Daniel Jenkins a local sculpture and photographer with a vast range of professional experience. He managed to cover a number of topics in response to the group including the differences between digital and film photography, lenses, the importance of light, composition, flash photography and putting work onto the computer and working with that. Daniel also touched on exhibitions and how to work towards this giving some good tips on how to be the photographer in the group recording a particular process. His humour and enthusiasm was catching and by the end of the day we were all inspired and wanted to do more. The Omeo group will be able to apply what was learnt to recording progress and for the Back to Back Wool Challenge as well as an exhibition at the end.

2 Day Skills Development Workshop with Jill Gael

On the 15th and 16th September, a great group of women met at the Golden Age Hotel in Omeo for Jill Gael's two day workshop. There were 16 women on the first day and 14 on the second, unfortunately quite a few women from the core group were unable to attend due to family or business commitments, but they are intending to continue with the project. The workshop was stimulating and very enjoyable. It covered topics such as: working in groups and committees; working in teams; goal setting; leadership skills; conflict resolution, and reaching consensus. Jill is very experienced in this type of work and is an excellent communicator, allowing her warmth and generosity of spirit to strengthen her message.

During this two day workshops with Jill participants chose what project they will work on and also learnt much about the processes they will use while working together.

One of the first things the group did was discuss and set ground rules. As they were such a great set of guidelines they are included here for interest:

  • We have fun;
  • we start and finish with a 'round' (the table);
  • we value different inputs and skills and needs;
  • we communicate openly and honestly;
  • we keep discussions within the group confidential;
  • we reach decisions by consensus;
  • we have and keep a timed meeting agenda.

Towards the end of the second day the group held a discussion about what they saw their project being. A number of the women had been involved in the Uniting Our Rural Communities project when it was held in 1997 and discussed the lessons learnt from that time. These included: a recognition that people contribute in different ways; that it is normal and acceptable for people to come in and out of the project according to their needs and expectations; that they wanted to keep it to a manageable size and that they wanted it to be enjoyable.

The group decided that their criteria for this project would be:

  • it must be fun;
  • it would involve learning;
  • it would have an enduring benefit for the region;
  • it would be unifying;
  • it would be manageable, able to be broken down into smaller parts;
  • it will be realistic;
  • and it will be for the entire region.

Many great idea were discussed and they ultimately came up with:
" A weekend celebration of the high country communities.
This will involve: workshops on a wide range of creative themes; music; a concert; campfires at night; exhibits. It will be accessible for the whole family - free for children. It will involve local community groups and local goods, will encourage creativity and, very importantly, will be a community 'pick-me-up'.

The women who attended came from as far afield as Benambra, Ensay, Swifts Creek and Omeo and brought a wide range of skills, needs and expectations to the workshop. One thing they had in common though was a desire to play a role in uniting their communities. This two day workshop has helped identify this common urge and provide the vehicle with which to realise it. It has also provided the participants with useful, transferable skills which they can take back into their communities and put to immediate use.

Some of the feedback includes:

  • What a girl (Jill)
  • Excellent and inspiring (Jill)
  • Lots of fun and great to listen to (Jill)
  • What can I say! (Jill) gave me the best personal help ever and this happened in a group environment in a short time and few words - thank you
  • Very warm and caring (Deb)
  • Very accessible and helpful (Deb)
  • Quiet efficiency (Deb)
  • Very supportive and easy to communicate with (Deb)
  • Great opportunity to get together for a reason
  • encourage more people to avail themselves of the opportunity of this wonderful workshop
  • a thoroughly enjoyable day
  • I think the workshop has given us all possibilities to expand
  • the inclusion of personal anecdotes and examples makes the theoretical information so much more meaningful

Key information and skills learnt

  • Strategic planning and goal setting
  • To look after number one
  • Decision making
  • I know I will look at others differently in the future
  • Group dynamics
  • Working with committees
  • Confidence
  • A different look at committee meetings and better ways to work as a team
  • Setting goals and making choices and how to achieve them


Media Workshops with Deb Bye

On 6th August, 19 women attended an excellent media workshop conducted by Deb Bye at the Swifts Creek Community Centre. Deb has a wealth of experience and is a well-known figure across Gippsland through her work with ABC radio. She now runs LifeFM and is an invaluable source of information on how to get the most from working with the media. The workshop was very well received, with insightful and practical advice presented in an engaging and humorous way.

The workshop included, amongst other topics, useful suggestions on: preparing for interviews; utilising the media to help get your message across; how best to promote events; and preparing media releases. There was also a great opportunity for participants to hone their communication skills when they recorded and then played back interviews with Deb.

The women who attended came from Omeo, Swifts Creek and Benambra and brought a wide range of skills and needs to the workshop. One thing they had in common though was a desire to play a part in their communities. This workshop, while being part of the Women who Mean Business Project, also provided the participants with practical, useful tools which they were able to take back into their communities and put to immediate use.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly and this was reflected in the feedback we received, some of which is included below.

  • A great day spent with a fun group of ladies.
  • A real boost to the ego
  • Has given me more confidence
  • [Taught me] to be clearer and well prepared
  • Feel comfortable in dealing with the media
  • Ideas to use the media to advantage whatever message I or the group need to communicate
  • A most enlightening workshop for those involved in community organisations
  • I learnt how to prepare CSA [community service announcements] and how to present it to the media
  • An excellent presentation by Deb Bye
  • Microphones wont frighten me so much
  • Well presented information.
  • It was very good and presented in [an] easy manner, we all enjoyed it
  • I have learnt to be aware of the requirements of the media and that I have to prepare before appearing on or approaching the media

Participants with Deb Bye doing
Practice Interviews


What's Coming Up:

Business Planning Workshop with Belinda Brennan:
To Be Announced

Home | The Project | Committees | Profiles | History | Newsletter | Media | Community | Sponsors | Feedback | Contact
Copyright © Women who Mean Business in association with the Arts Network East Gippsland 2004
Webmaster: Anchor Web Design