Above: Barapa Barapa Elder, Aunty Esther, in her possum skin cloak, ran a storytelling session on the experiences of women in culture, at the 2015 Chicks in the Sticks event at Carlsruhe.
Chicks in the Sticks events were initiated by the Wimmera CMA in 2011 and they spread to the North Central region in 2013 and to the Goulburn Broken region in 2015. The annual events often attract close to 100 women.
Women–only events are nothing new, extending back millennia to when Traditional Owners practised women-only customs and business on Country. Single gender events are rarely used in current extension practices, with organisations preferring to reach out to as many people as possible. Creating an event series that excluded men was a genuine risk, but since its inception more than 600 rural women have attended the seven events.
Chicks in the Sticks is essentially a field day. The day is designed by women, for women. The events involve an outdoor meal in a picturesque location, usually a unique environmental or sustainable farming site, with inspiring presentations from local women. Guests are invited to have some fun and dress up in their favourite frock and wear gumboots.
The events aim to be bold, challenging and meaningful on a very personal level, while addressing broader agricultural and environmental issues. Feedback after the events has highlighted the importance of women-only events in creating a sense of safety and allowing for challenging conversations.
The day often includes discussion of diverse topics not generally explored at a typical farm and environment extension events. These include: mental health, suicide prevention, personal wellbeing, self-care, increasing women’s visibility and nurturing a sense of place. Feedback from other projects in the agricultural and natural resource management industries has indicated that these broader issues are important to women and can be barriers to change.
The most recent Chicks in the Sticks event was held in October 2018. More than 80 women cruised the majestic Murray River on board MV Mary Ann at Echuca.
Kia Hooke from Serpentine was impressed by how well organised the event was.
“I appreciated the time and effort that has gone into planning it to occur during the day, on a weekend, which allowed me to work around the kids, so I could attend,” Kia said.
Ashley Rogers (currently on extended leave) is Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator for the Goulburn Broken CMA.
Tess Grieves is Regional Landcare Coordinator for the North Central CMA.
For more information email Tess at email@example.com