Close to 150 women from all over region and beyond came together in Moree at the end of October for an inspiring Christian women’s event.
A total of 145 women from Moree and district, Warialda, Gunnedah, Armidale, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Narromine, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Binnaway, Muswellbrook, Hervey Bay and Sydney attended the inaugural Women in Remote Areas (WIRA) conference which was held at Moree Christian School on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27.
WIRA was established by a group of Moree women – Claire Dunlop, Shelley Briggs, Karen Bowhay, Narelle Murray and Suzy Simpson – representing different churches in town, with the aim to connect Christian women who live in rural and remote areas around Moree to the gospel in ways they may not normally have access to.
“About 18 months ago, Shelley and I recognised there was a gap for Christian women in rural and remote areas to be encouraged and empowered, so Shelley suggested we do a conference,” Claire Dunlop said.
“We approached Suzy, who is gifted in music, to come on the committee and Karen, who has gifts in organising registrations and finance, while Narrelle is very skilled at decorating.
“We each came with our gifts and started working on it in November last year, meeting once a month.”
The non-denominational conference was broken into four sessions over Friday night and Saturday, with a time of worship within each, as well as speeches and spotlight moments highlight different community services in town.
The theme for the conference was ‘being a woman of influence’
“The idea is that we’re all women of influence,” Ms Dunlop said.
“It’s about choosing to let God be who you’re looking at to become the best influence you can.”
Wendy Smith (a senior scientist at Moree Pathology) and Kris Lawson (Moree Christian School teacher and Pastor of Impact church) were the guest speakers, while a panel of women shared their experiences of living in rural and remote Australia and dealing with loneliness, grief, being a migrant, relationship breakdowns and more.
“A big highlight was a lot of people said how much that appreciated that panel,” Ms Dunlop said.
“The whole conference was a time for women to have some quiet time away from everyday life, to be encouraged and built-up so they could go back to their own communities feeling empowered.”
Being the first conference of its kind to be held in this area, the committee were thrilled with the exceptional turn-out and positive response from attendees.
“We got feedback saying it was great to have a conference nearby – they wouldn’t go to one in the city or bigger areas,” Ms Dunlop said.
“We thought there was a need, but we weren’t expecting it to be so huge. People kept pouring in.
“It was beyond my expectations, how much people got out of it. It was a great experience to be involved with.”
With lots of requests for another conference, the WIRA committee are currently considering whether it will be a recurring event.
The conference was completely volunteer-run and not-for-profit, with donations taken to raise money for Ephraim House Moree.
Tourism Moree were big supporters of the event; they not only promoted it but had a stall set up and gave local gifts to the speakers, while the Gift Barrel provided jams to give as a gift to each lady who attended.