Margie Braunstein writes about the communities she and Fiona Nixon met on their travels to Wangaratta and the Riverina, delivering Your Life Matters regional and rural workshops. Read some of the inspirational stories of joy, hope and healing.
Fiona and I left the Quest for Life centre on 22 May for the scenic drive to Wangaratta in Victoria and arrived safe and sound ready for a wonderful day at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre and hosted by the Opendoor Neighbourhood Centre, who provide community assistance including a food bank and crisis care.
We had a lovely and engaged group of people who appreciated the workshop and gave us some gorgeous feedback at the end of the day. In Wangaratta, we met so many wonderful people living with grief, loss and challenges in their community like homelessness, post lockdown recovery for local businesses and all of the trials that life on the land can bring.
We loved our time in ‘Wang’ and felt privileged to spend time with such resilient and caring folk. Fiona did an excellent job manning the shop as well as supporting people in the breaks. Ever caring, Fi bought flowers from her garden for the front of the room and managed to make them last the week!
We then travelled back across the border to Albury and even managed a quick walk around the town to see the magnificent Botanic Gardens in full autumnal bloom. Next morning, we met our next group and enjoyed the amazing venue, The Albury Manor, which is full of medieval décor complete with suits of armour and swords! The people of Albury welcomed us warmly and shared so openly about their lives. As always, there was much more laughter than tears.
In Albury were were hosted by the Albury / Wodonga women’s health centre and they told us about the difficulty of being a border town during the lockdowns when Vic and NSW had different rules. The challenges faced by the town and the extra stress this added to school students and people needing to work and access health care are still being felt.
Apart from these challenges, our group were fun and interested in the Quest teachings and left full of joy and thankful for our presence in their town.
On we went to Wagga Wagga where we met a small but lovely group of women from the local surrounds hosted by the Wagga Wagga Women’s Health Centre. Our venue was an art gallery in the cutest café called The Curious Rabbit which was lined with second handbooks and filled with the smell of good coffee. While the noise of the venue provided some unique challenges,the people were bright and involved and asked great questions that demonstrated their hunger for learning.
Our final leg was onto Hay which was our longest drive between workshops with amazing views of the countryside with sprawling cotton and almond farms as well as cattle and sheep everywhere we looked.
Past the famous Tubbo Station and onto the prettiest little town you could imagine with the friendliest people. We even drove past Fiona’s family property, Kolora, from her childhood and had to stop to take some pics!
This was our biggest group on the trip with close to thirty people present with the most incredible community spirit. Delicious morning tea and lunch were provided by the generous members of the Hay CWA who were our hosts at the local Lion’s Club Hall.
The support these women and men give to each other is clear to see and they were so thankful that we made it all the way to their town for the workshop.
A recent teen suicide and other serious mental health issues have added to stress for people in the town and surrounding farms. We heard about an overwhelming lack of resources and witnessed how these resilient people endure and lean on each other to survive and thrive which they do with so much love and kindness.
Good hearts and strong spirits… and a rainbow
Fiona and I felt so grateful for the good hearts and strong spirit these remarkable people demonstrate. One lady even bought a basket of 40 bouquets from her garden for everyone who attended. So sweet but Irene was definitely not used to taking selfies!
The day ended and our time together was marked by the arrival of an enormous rainbow over the club and footy grounds which we could see from our room. A lovely end to a fabulous week.
With one more night to go in Narrandera, we headed home tired, content and full of joy for the connections made and inspired by the strength and spirit of our fellow Australians living in rural and regional areas. Their lives certainly do matter.
We left with homemade biscuits, flowers, the memory of laughter and gratitude in our hearts.
Next Your Life Matters workshops
Your Life Matters regional workshops continue in June and July Out West. View schedule
Quest for Life’s regional community workshops are made possible through donations and grant funding. If you would like to make a positive difference to people and communities experiencing hardship and trauma, please Donate to our EOFY Appeal.