Uniting rural women in Riverland

By Kerrie Lush

Margaret Howie attended her first South Australian Rural Women’s Gathering on a whim just over 12 months ago.

It was a spur of the moment decision to attend the event at Bordertown last winter. She’d lost her husband Richard to cancer just nine months before and was feeling a little lost.

She convinced her friend Anne Auld to tag along and, before they knew it, they’d put their hands up to organise the event the following year.

“I just had the best time,” Margaret says.

“I went clay shooting, working dog training, sparkling wine appreciation, and learnt basic mechanics which I thought I would now need,” she adds.

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Margaret Howie (left) convinced her friend Anne Auld attend the SA Rural Women’s Gathering in Bordertown just over a year ago

Fast forward a year and she’s putting the finishing touches on organising the South Australian Rural Women’s Gathering in the Riverland after being approached by a few people about whether she’d be interested in being on the committee.

“Basically they said it couldn’t be done (in such a short period of time) but I think we’ve pulled it off – it’s been amazing. I’ve met an amazing group of ladies from all walks of life,” she says.

With more than 60 workshops, as well as 10 regional tours, Margaret has been surprised by participants’ selections.

“Tin creations, Indian Cookery, cheesemaking and wine appreciation have definitely been the most popular,” she says.

Margaret says the gatherings attract women of all ages and backgrounds from regional South Australia.

“I say to ladies, grab a girlfriend and come and have a girls’ weekend,” she says.

“When I walked into last year’s event, I didn’t know many people but I couldn’t believe the friendship and the camaraderie of all the women. It’s really inclusive, and that’s what I like about it.

“It’s not really about what workshops you do, but the friends you make.

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Margaret, far left, is now organising the Riverland SA Rural Women’s Gathering next month

Margaret says the local community has been very supportive, particularly the Riverland’s wineries, with each one donating their wares for the event to showcase what can be produced in the region.

Aside from running a winegrape and almond property, as well as a commercial almond tree nursery at Murtho near Renmark, Margaret works two days a week as an export advisor for the Federal and State Governments, on top of the estimated 20 hours a week she spends organising the gathering.

“It has actually been very good for me – I haven’t got time to feel sorry for myself. It came at a good time for me personally.”

A highlight of this year’s event, which is in its 20th year, will be the Gala Dinner where guest speaker, London Bombing survivor, Gill Hicks, will share her story.

Other guest speakers during the gathering include former Riverlander and South Australian Minister, Karlene Maywald, world champion rower, Barbara Fenner, who hails from Alawoona in the Mallee, and rural journalist and author, Liz Harfull.

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The gatherings attract women of all ages and backgrounds from regional South Australia

It is only the second time the event has been held in the Riverland, with up to 300 people are expected to attend.

While it’s all inclusive for women who have registered for the weekend’s activities, there will potentially be a few seats available for those who can’t participate in the entire weekend, but would like to attend the dinner.

The South Australian Rural Women’s Gathering will be held in Renmark, from September 9-11. Registrations close today (Friday, August 26).

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