Celebrating International Women’s Day each year usually involves lunch with a group of friends and colleagues in a five star hotel somewhere in the city. This year I got to celebrate with a difference. I was lucky enough to be asked to speak along with some truly inspirational women as part of the Central West Farming Systems (CWFS) Rural Women and Youth Conference Day in Condobolin in the heart of New South Wales.
On a hot Autumn day (which felt more Summer than Fall) a wonderful crowd of rural and regionally based women, men and senior school students gathered at the Condobolin Agricultural Research Station as part of the annual CWFS Conference: “Women & Youth in Agriculture – Building a Resilient Future”.
The CWFS team led by CEO, Di Parsons with the help of a number of generous sponsors and volunteers had created a sea of tents and marquees on the lawns of the Ag Research Station and a very full Agenda. All we needed was a crowd; and by 9.00am they were arriving from far and wide across the Central Western farming district of New South Wales plus a few would-be city-slickers like yours truly.
The Agenda included some truly amazing guest speakers such as Fran Rowe, 2012 New South Wales Woman of the Year. Fran, a mother of four and grandmother of seven, has had an amazing career establishing the Rural Financial Counselling Service in New South Wales and as chair and member of so many boards I am not sure if even Fran could recall every one. I was most impressed though that in 1989 she was named the “Man of the Year in Agriculture” (there was no prize for women in those days!) and she laughingly told me and others that she had obviously evolved to become “Woman of the Year” in 2012.
I and the rest of the crowd also had the pleasure of hearing Senator Fiona Nash, Deputy Leader of the Australian Nationals in the Senate. Senator Nash was charming, frank, authentic and funny. She gave us all an insight into her start in politics, her passions and the challenges she still sees ahead of her.
Senator Nash was a hard act to follow, but that was the task to hand. We were running over time and it was only me standing between the conference crowd and scones, jam and cream. I had been asked to speak about being a wife, mother, step-mother, farmer, former CEO and blogger (phew!) all in 20 minutes. With that in mind I was hoping to take everyone on a tiptoe through my career journey: the ups and downs, how I have had to respond to and handle change and how resilience, which is so often needed in farming, has been something I had tried to cultivate in myself and pass down to my stepchildren and little girl.
My personal and professional journey and the lessons learned has led me to the here and now: this Blog. I wanted to give everyone a taste of the power of social media and its impact as a lasting change on the world around us. There were lots of laughs and some fun moments for everyone but also a serious message that social media can be used as a key plank in building resilience though its power to connect, share and build community.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the CWFS team and the many people who attended their Conference day. I was proud and privileged to be presenting alongside a wonderful group of speakers which also included the Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson, the New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries, Small Business and Public Lands, Lindy Read, Sandra Martin who spoke forcefully on emotional resilience, Megan Rogers, Graincorp’s Alice McLeish and university student and no doubt emerging leader Annie Nichols.
I was amazed by Katrina Hodgkinson’s openness; it was wonderful to hear a politician share her story and her amazement at being the first female Minister for Primary Industries in New South Wales but also her secret belief that this was something she would one day achieve. The realisation of an ambition is of course only part of the story; I was caught by her honest pride in her career and I will be following what she does going forward with real interest.
In 2013, International Women’s Day took me to where I love to be: in the country, outside on a beautiful, blue-sky day, in the company of a diverse group of inspirational people, sharing stories, laughs and almost a few tears. I know that we have so much more that needs to be done on so many levels to achieve basic safety, equality, education and opportunity for girls and women around the globe but last Friday I felt good about the world and everything felt possible.