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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 1012

Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (5.58 p.m.) —I would like to say a few words about the second annual women of the land gathering held at Gunnedah last weekend. I was so impressed with the attitude and enthusiasm of whose who attended that I thought it deserved the attention of the Senate. The aim of the gathering is for rural women to work together towards friendship, learning and caring for their future growth. This sums up the women of the land movement. It is about looking after each other through communication and sharing experience. It is about learning and teaching from each other's experiences.

  I was told by my wife, who attended this women of the land gathering, that the evident enthusiasm of all the women there was quite magnificent. There were people there such as Mrs Audrey Hardman, who was the ex-CWA chairman in New South Wales and whom you, Madam Acting Deputy President West, would well know. The town hall was filled to capacity. I think there were nearly 400 people at that gathering, which says a lot for what the women were trying to do: to learn from each other and to learn how to cope with such things as the present drought. The keynote speaker was Marie Mahood, who comes from central Queensland. She talked about the privations that country women face in different areas.

  These women talked about a wide range of issues. They talked about women's health, farm safety, computers, coping alone, risk management, relaxation, landcare, starting a new business and self-assertiveness. From the women I met at the gathering, I can assure the Senate that there is definitely a great deal of assertiveness amongst country women, and I take my hat off to them. They talked about superannuation, self-defence and suicide awareness. They had a variety of workshops which all gave an indication of the issues about rural women and the things that they are concerned about. It showed a hunger for the means by which women can improve their contribution to themselves, to their farms and to their families.

  On the Friday night, four women gave their views on their experiences in life. They covered issues such as whether they had to deliver people's children in the communities; whether they had to walk across flooded creeks and give birth to their own babies because they lived in isolated areas; and whether they had the problem of having no telephones, which in the past a lot of people faced in the really outback parts, the lack of electricity and those sorts of things. On top of all this, these women who went through these privations and looked after and helped their husbands also had to raise the kids, prepare the meals and keep the house. They really helped their husbands and their spouses in making a go of the land.

  On the Friday night, Gwen Griffith put forward three very important points in her short talk. She said, `Life is what you make it; the world owes you nothing; and the importance of education cannot be understated.' These three points demonstrate a fantastic attitude which is prevalent throughout rural Australia. I would like to think that more people in Australia could take on board such a selfless attitude.

  Rural women do the best with the resources that they have, wherever they are. I would like to give special congratulations to Janet Redden, who was the convener of the women of the land gathering. She was so impressed with the one at Orange last year that she said she would put on the one in the north-west this year. I also congratulate Sister Gabrielle Foley, Diane Bently, Councillor Gaye Swain and Min Slack-Smith. They all did a fantastic job in organising the gathering. I will finish by quoting a poem called Rural Women by Jennifer Jackson from Glenormiston in Victoria.

Who are we?

We are women who live on farms

  or in country towns and cities.

We are farmers and farming partners,

We are women who work in towns,

  off farm or from home,

We work in schools

  and in offices and shops,

We work in hospitals,

  in hotels and at home.

We can be paid or unpaid,

  willing volunteers

  or not so willing.

We are mothers, daughters,

  wives and sisters.

We are both young and old,

  diverse and resourceful.

We are the strength of our communities.

We have lived in the country

  for generations or

We are city exiles

  by choice or circumstance.

Whatever our background,

Wherever we are

We are

Rural Women.

  That sums up what the gathering was about and it sums up the people. I want to mention Judy Simpson who comes from my area and who gave an outstanding address on the Friday night. She talked about the problems she has faced. She is a country woman who has helped her husband. She has driven tractors and the school bus. She is the one I was talking about earlier who delivered a baby on the farm at some previous time. I take off my hat to the women of rural Australia. I take off my hat to the people who organised this get-together. I congratulate those women and I hope that they continue to play this magnificent part in supporting their husbands in all the country areas of Australia.