MORE than 230 people attended the Harrow Bush Nursing Centre’s second Pathways to Harrow event on Tuesday.
Harrow residents Elizabeth ‘Lou’ Edgar OAM, Lola Jones, Kylie McClure, Jessica Page and Barb Brown were the stars of the day, sharing their stories about how and why they came to be part of the Harrow community, and why they had stayed.
Each of the five women spoke about their experiences at the chicken and champagne luncheon, which coincided with International Day for Rural Women.
A booklet containing their stories was also launched on the day.
Harrow Bush Nursing Centre manager Bernadette Close said it was the second Pathways to Harrow booklet in a series.
Last year, the centre launched the project by telling the stories of Betsey Hunt, Gurjit Sondhu, Sherryn Simpson, Marnie Baker and Sloba Petrovic.
Almost 90 people attended the first book launch.
Mrs Close said many people were not aware of the experiences the women shared.
“We can live beside our neighbours for years and think we know them, but it’s not until people come to Pathways to Harrow that they realise they don’t know everything,” she said.
She said the stories helped the community by emphasising the benefits of moving to a rural area.
They also encouraged people to forge better connections within the community by helping them understand their neighbours’ journeys.
Harrow Bush Nursing Centre operations administration officer Anita McGuigan said the project had another role: it was a confidence boost for the women involved.
“These are women who, for the most part, have no experience getting up and speaking publicly, and the majority of them would have no experience writing professionally,” she said.
“This project gives them an opportunity to do both.”
She said a further 15 women would be involved in the project in the next three years.
Ms McGuigan said a hard-cover book containing all 25 stories would be released in 2017 at the end of the project.
A documentary exploring the journeys of each of the first 10 women is also being made, in preparation for an awards ceremony in Brisbane next year.
Mrs Close said Pathways to Harrow had been nominated for several awards in the past 12 months.
It won two Volunteering Western Victoria awards: the Bendigo Bank Leading Volunteer Program, and the Community Health Award for 2013.
The project also won the National Members of Parliament Volunteer Award for 2013.
“It has been nominated for the Victorian Community History Awards, which will be announced on Monday,” Mrs Close said.
“Volunteering Western Victoria has asked us to present Pathways to Harrow at the International Volunteers Conference in Brisbane in 2014,” she said.
With the support of West Wimmera Shire Council and philanthropist Geoff Handbury, Mrs Close said the project was able to expand to meet the community’s interest this year.
She anticipated it would be even bigger next year.