WOW stands for Women of the World. At the recent Longreach event (4-6th March) the wow also describes the unmistakable impact for participants. For me, after the Covid hiatus of traveling, the trip out to WOW Longreach (pic 1 – sunset on arrival) proved to be epic with a 6-hour delay in Blackall but also led to serendipitous moments. The first workshop I attended was on Podcasting and was facilitated by the 4EB (multicultural community radio – Brisbane) team of Trish, Alex, and Willy (pic 2). Our podcast ‘homework’ was to interview a WOW participant and as the ABC Landline crew filmed our workshop, my thoughts went to interviewing, Pip Courtney (host of Landline – Pic 3) who had rescued me with a Diet Coke the previous day in Blackall. So, I asked her if I could interview her about her self-confessed Diet Coke habit for my ‘homework’ plus Pip interviewed me for Landline. Both interviews proved to be fun and a perfect way to practice podcasting, interviewing, and being interviewed.

The spirit of WOW was liberating. My fellow GBS tribe, Naomi Birdthistle and Rosemary Stockdale (pic 4 – also Sheila – CWA) were there and holding court to promote GBS programs. Griffith was also represented by the QCA with Rae and Hannah who were holding workshops on Protest Posters. Many people crafted posters expressing their own protests and concerns on sexism, race, world politics, Covid, and rural issues. One unforgettable poster was created by a lady in her 70s who overcame her discomfort of designing a poster to communicate her experience of bullying and ageism – there was no resolution to her situation, but she was so grateful for the poster experience, and the platform to express and share her problem without being judged.

Themes were echoed throughout the WOW weekend: no judgment; being noisy and sharing stories which the spirit of WOW encouraged. The candor and lack of judgment were liberating.  As academics we are always being judged or judging others – our students, our own work, reviewing papers and grants. Listening to the stories of women from such diverse backgrounds with their challenges, their wins, and their resilience was inspiring. The resilience of living 700kms from a hospital; 400kms from a supermarket; or taking a 26-hour bus ride to attend WOW. This resilience was also highlighted by the panel sessions on 30 years of Landline Women with Keelan Mailman who talked about the challenges as a single Mum, foster Mum, and as the first indigenous woman to run a property in Qld; Joy McClymont who lives remotely and started her online fitness program to empower herself and others; and Elizabeth Clark who worked a property all her life but still sees herself as the ‘farmer’s wife’. Women from across Qld came to WOW to celebrate female equality and how far it has come however recognized there is still a long way to go. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ developed into the mantra that was repeatedly heard emphasizing the need to normalize female role models. Sentiments concluded that it will be a great era when women no longer need to distinguish their challenges and females can easily see what they want to be and draw on those role models – WOW – I recommend it.

Author Heather Stewart