On reflection, ‘you should see my nuggets’ was not that much of a surprising welcome to Charters Towers. I had, after all, just come from the quaint and delightful Miner’s Cottage where I was extremely pleased with my purchase for my eldest boy. At 6 he is a keen rock and gem collector. His most recent bounty was from Cobbold Gorge and Forsayth following an adventure on the Savannahlander with his grandmother. Now it was my turn to add to the collection. I was in Charters Towers for the annual Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) conference. This was the second time I had attended. Last year it was in Blackall and along with my boys then 3 and 5, we drove from Sydney to Blackall via Cunnumulla and Charleville for a taste of the outback. For both my boys this has instilled a love for and respect of rural Australia.
They could have said no but they didn’t and the Blackall community opened up to us. I was attending the 20th annual Queensland Regional, Rural and Remote Women’s Network conference in September. I brought my two sons. My eldest was in his first year of school in Sydney. Kirstie from the Blackall State School answered my call. She was also part of the conference organising committee. She understood and put me in touch with Miss Ross, of Prep R. Emails followed and a plan came together.
Blackall State School was so generous in its welcome of my son and of us. For his stay they planned an excursion to show my city based son the origins of the town and region at Ram Park. They organised a whip cracking demonstration by young students who were nowhere near as tall as the whips they artfully wielded. They assigned him a buddy. My son’s name was even on the whiteboard about what was happening during the week. And to add to his delight, a Tuck Shop lunch was ordered.
Seeing those legendary gates of Terrick Terrick, a renowned sheep breeding and wool growing property now displayed in Blackall’s Ram Park, was for me a recognition of a great past and a renewed optimism for the future.
I was visiting Blackall for the 20th annual Queensland Regional, Rural and Remote Women’s Conference in September. I was excited and slightly in awe of changes and developments in the 20 years since I last visited. I was in some disbelief it had been so long but the presence of my two young sons, 5 and 3, the evidence was undeniable.
I had first visited this area as part of a shearing team in 1990 and again in my final year at university in 1993. These times made a lasting impression. My professional life has and remains very much on rural issues. For almost a decade it focused on the wool industry. Much of it was in the inside country and overseas. When I was 14 and deciding, somewhat unexpectedly, to work in the country given my city upbringing, I pored over the many pastoral books about the great stations waiting for the next school holidays to get still more work experience. Seeing those Terrick Terrick gates brought back so many years of learning and trying to understand a country that I found at times unforgiving but ultimately rewarding and memorable.
It was my first Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network conference. It was the 20th year since the organisation began. It was also 20 years since I had been in central western Queensland. Much had changed. As had my appreciation of the many issues facing agriculture today. From the politics within the industry and its leadership to the corporatisation of the sector, pressures from competing land uses and greater consumer expectation of responsible production.
The theme of the conference was ‘women with heart, passion and purpose’. While familiar with industry conferences, this conference was personal. It spoke to and sought to give women working in the many facets of agriculture the confidence and support to speak on behalf of their industry, their communities and their families.