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Locals Honoured At Conference

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Enjoying lunch at the QRRWN 25th anniversary conference in Kingaroy were QRRRWN Barambah branch secretary Lorraine Ryan, Nanango; Gloria Kirkness, Barambah branch; South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff; Susan McDonald, Brisbane; and Cr Ros Heit

Cr Ros Heit with her award certificate and gift at the gala dinner in Kingaroy Town Hall on Friday night

September 25, 2018

South Burnett councillor Ros Heit was named winner of the 2018 Leadership Award at the recent Queensland Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) Conference held in Kingaroy.

Ros told it had been “very exciting” to have been one of the two finalists for the award, which had earlier been whittled down from six nominations.

And she felt “humbled and honoured” to have won.

Originally from Salisbury in England, Ros has lived in the South Burnett for more than 30 years.

She has worked in a variety of roles over the years … as an employment consultant, a youth worker and a manager of women’s refuges before being elected to Division 6 at the South Burnett Regional Council.

She has also raised a family with her husband, Kerry, at Wooroolin.

Another South Burnett winner was Nanango State High School vice-captain Gabby De Weers who was named “Young Woman with a Vision”.

Gabby is not only a keen sportswoman – she has represented Wide Bay in cross country four times – she is also a Duke of Edinburgh gold award winner and has also been campaigning for tobacco to be made a prescription drug.

The annual Strong Women Leadership Awards were announced by ABC Wide Bay senior reporter Brad Marsellos at a gala dinner for 150 people in Kingaroy Town Hall on the Friday night of the conference (September 14).

Cilla Pershouse, from Ban Ban Springs – who created Blue Gum Farm TV – took out the main award, QRRRWN Woman of the Year.

Other winners were Story Teller of the Year, ABC journalist Nicole Bond; Inspirational Woman Jeanette Summerville, from Charleville; Small Business Owner of the Year Jayne McKenzie, from Kilcoy; and Volunteer of the Year Kylee Lyon, from Bracken Ridge, who founded “Drought Angels”.

Award winners Gabby De Weers, Ros Heit, Jayne McKenzie, Cilla Pershouse, Kylee Lyon, Nicole Bond and Jeanette Summerville with ABC presenter Brad Marsellos

* * *

The local Barambah Branch of QRRRWN also announced the winner of its second annual $1000 bursary at the conference.

Belinda Ryan, 37, from Nanango, is studying a Bachelor of Education through Swinburne University.

The aim of the bursary is to provide financial assistance to a South Burnett woman aged over 30 to help support her to gain extra skills via training and personal or business development.

* * *

QRRRWN president Melissa Barnett looked relieved as the three-day Conference unfolded smoothly

The QRRRWN Conference, from September 13-15, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the organisation which was founded to support rural women, their families and communities.

QRRRWN began life as “Queensland Rural Women” in 1993 when nine women got together in the Central Burnett area.

The group decided to return to the Burnett for this important anniversary conference as many of its early members came from the South Burnett region.

Displays of memorabilia, including videos, photographs and news clippings, filled an alcove at the main entrance to the conference venue, Kingaroy Town Hall.

QRRRWN president Melissa Barnett said she was pleased with the turnout, which included 130 registrations from across Queensland.

The theme for the conference was “Growing Women for the Future” which a string of inspirational guest speakers addressed with gusto.

These included Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Charysse Pond, the Saturday keynote speaker, who described both the personal and professional challenges she had faced throughout her life.

Husbands and partners weren’t forgotten as the women were networking and being inspired at the conference.

Barambah branch QRRRWN members Karen Seiler and Rebecca Cross organised a Partner Tour to keep husbands entertained on Friday.

* * *

AgForce representative Caroline Harris, from Ironpot, with incoming AgForce Queensland president
 Georgie Somerset, from Durong

Among the familiar faces at the conference was early QRRWN member, ABC Board member, incoming AgForce Queensland president, Red Earth Community Foundation founder and Durong grazier Georgie Somerset.

It was a big conference for Georgie and her sister Juliet Robinson.

Their late mother,  Jane Robinson – a founding member of QRRWN – was remembered at the Jane’s Prayer Breakfast held at Mt Wooroolin on the Saturday morning of the conference.

Local Catholic priest Father Chukwudi Chinaka led the prayer service and spoke about empowering women farmers in his home country of Nigeria.

A second speaker was Ros Heit, who shared the story of her journey with breast cancer, her trip to Machu Picchu and the importance of living each day to the full.

The Firepit Youth Band from St Mary’s Catholic Parish provided the music.

The Prayer Breakfast has been held at the QRWWN conference every year since 1997 and was named after Jane in 2001.

Juliet was also a guest speaker at the conference, leading the Personal Development workshop on Saturday afternoon.

Georgie went on to win the major raffle prize, donated by PandaPearls Australia.

Julia Telford, from Goondiwindi, won the other major raffle prize, the 25th anniversary patchwork quilt.

* * *

At the official opening on Friday morning … Georgie Somerset, Deb Frecklington, keynote speaker Dr Kirstin Ferguson and QRRRWN president Melissa Barnett

Other highlights of the conference included:

  • VIP afternoon at Burtons Shoes in Kingaroy on Thursday to explore the Spring collection of shoes and accessories (accompanied by champagne and canapes)
  • The official welcome function in the Kingaroy Town Hall forecourt on the Thursday night, which featured music by the string ensemble from the South Burnett Community Orchestra and a display of whipcracking
  • Guest speaker at the Westpac Agribusiness Business Breakfast on Friday morning, RIRDC 2018 Queensland winner Krista Watkins, co-inventor of Natural Evolution Banana Flour
  • Welcome to Country ceremony on Friday morning which included Indigenous dancers from Kingaroy State High School
  • The official opening on Friday morning by Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington and the lighting of the Conference candle
  • Friday’s keynote speech delivered by Dr Kirstin Ferguson, creator of the #CelebratingWomen campaign, who also launched her latest book, “Women Kind”, at the conference
  • Youth Stream session for young female students from Kingaroy, Nanango, Murgon and Dalby State High Schools and St Mary’s Catholic College, held in the Uniting Church Hall in Kingaroy on Friday afternoon

Workshop sessions on Friday and Saturday morning and afternoon focussed on professional, personal and creative development.

[Photos:, Nanango Electorate Office and Cr Ros Heit]

The QRRRWN Welcome Function on Thursday night coincided with RUOK Day which meant there was a splash of yellow from the South Burnett Suicide Prevention Working Group in the Forecourt … from left, Andrea McGee, from Crawford; Rebekah Noe, from Kingaroy; and Cr Danita Potter

Looking forward to the rest of the 25th anniversary conference were Robin McConachie, Brisbane; Chelsea Shorten, Charleville; Helen Warnock, Rockhampton; and Sarah Grayson, Scarborough

Dawn Reid, from Kooralgin, with Karen Seiler, from Wooroolin, at the Welcome function

Liam Zammataro, Jack Maudsley, Giann Zammataro and Molly Black (front) put on a display of whipcracking at the official welcome ceremony in the Kingaroy Town Hall Forecourt

The South Burnett Community Orchestra’s string ensemble performed at the official welcome function on the Thursday night

Guests in the Kingaroy Town Hall Forecourt enjoy the whipcracking demonstration

The lighting of the Conference candle on Friday morning

Enjoying a break at lunchtime on Friday were Mandy Bishop, Sunny Nook; Claire Kapernick, Glen Rock; and Vanessa Bambling, Gayndah

Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington with Youth Parliament Member for Nanango Belinda Spencer (Nanango SHS) and South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff at the Youth Stream session for young rural women session on Friday afternoon

Youth Parliament Member for Callide Jemma Mobbs leads a circle at the Youth Stream

South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff with a circle of students at the Youth Stream

Some of the young women taking part in the QRRWN Youth Stream session … from left, Emma Gersekowski (Nanango SHS), Taylah Favier (Kingaroy SHS), Georgia Graham (St Mary’s), Willow Harrison (Murgon SHS) and Madaline Thompson and Allie Perkins (Dalby SHS)

The Conference blackboard in the foyer of Kingaroy Town Hall

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