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Amanda Griffiths: How “Our stories can empower us, not define us”

These words have stayed with me since I heard guest speaker Sarah Hales speak, at QRRRWN’s Goondiwindi Conference in 2019.

I was first associated with Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network in 2019 when I was nominated in the Strong Women’s Leadership Awards.  I was fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist in the Storyteller of the Year category.  As a beauty salon owner in a rural town, I was very fortunate to meet so many women from all walks of life who I admired.  I noticed the importance of sharing stories about rural women and started podcasting and writing and sharing through my love of bush poetry, photography about stories about life on the land.  I felt so honoured to receive Runner Up in the category on the evening of the gala dinner.

I was fortunate to attend the annual conference in Goondiwindi in 2019.  I was accompanied by my friend Julie, and we made the journey from Ingham together.  This particular event is something I’m forever grateful for.  For me a highlight was meeting members like Genevieve Gleeson, Megan Sidebottom, Davida Melksham and President Melissa Barnett who welcomed us and made us feel like family.  I have many friends through this network of women who I still keep in contact with.

Attending these awards and conference coincided with a very difficult time in my life but I believe this event enabled me to gain the strength and courage to overcome the adversities in my life. 

On the last day of the conference, I was invited to share my bush poem “Bush Belles” which I had written 7 weeks earlier from my bed in the intensive care unit as I was recovering from major surgery for my recent cancer diagnosis.  This poem had gone viral on social media and I believe helped inspire others facing challenges in their lives.  I never shared with the crowd how this poem came about but only a few committee members were aware of my situation.

After I shared my poem and was leaving the event, I do recall being stopped in the carpark by an attendee who said she was touched by my words.  She too was facing hard times and felt my words resonated with her.

I believe when women come together in unity with a collective intention, magic happens.

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