Liebe Group day inspires women

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The role of women in the future of rural communities was a hot topic at the 15th annual Liebe Group Women's Field Day, held in Dalwallinu on June 19.

Fred Hollows Foundation director Gabi Hollows inspired the crowd of about 150 women with her keynote address.

Ms Hollows spoke about her rural upbringing in Gosford, New South Wales, where she helped on the family orchard.

She also told how she continued the legacy of her husband Fred Hollows, an ophthalmologist who became known for his work in restoring eyesight for thousands of people in Australia and other countries, after his death in 1993 when she travelled to Vietnam to work with ophthalmologists.

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UN ambassador and Wongan Hills grower Kathy Barrett-Lennard spoke of some of her experiences locally and abroad.

Futurist and life coach Anni Mac added to the event with colourful insights into the brain development of different generations.

She also revealed the likely future of rural women and businesses and the role technology would play in the future.

Catherine Marriott, the 2012 Rural Woman of the Year, spoke about ways to become more influential in the community.

Liebe Group women's committee chairwoman Deb Metcalf said the day was structured a bit differently this year to allow for more speakers.

"One of the things we changed this year is we ran concurrent sessions to give more diversity of speakers," she said. "This was something people really enjoyed and it worked really well."

Ms Metcalf said this year's event was more successful than ever in helping to achieve the outcomes of the women's group.

"Our purpose is to build the management capacity of women to make a difference to the community," she said.

The event had successfully shifted the focus from agronomics to business development and networking.

Liebe Group women's committee member Merrie Carlshausen was one of the instigators of the Women's Field Day, in 1997.

"There was a recognition within the Liebe Group management that women weren't being optimised to their full potential in farming businesses," she said. "We tried to work out a way to empower women to make them feel comfortable to take on a bigger role in farming."

Ms Carlshausen said the field days were originally meant to run for five years but they were so successful they continued.

"People always come away from these days feeling inspired and motivated and realising they can move themselves closer to reaching their potential," she said.

Other speakers at the event included Department of Agriculture and Food research officer Peter Newman, Bedbrook Finance adviser Simon Bedbrook and RSM Bird Carmeron's Judy Snell.

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