An overview of the Women on Farms Gathering heritage collection

The Victorian Women on Farms Gathering Collection consists of over 450 items including symbolic 'icons', interviews, photographs, videos and a range of memorabilia. The objects collected from each Gathering symbolise the meaning of place and contemporary issues impacting that rural area. The Collection covers the first twenty years of the Victorian Women on Farms Gatherings, 1990-2009.

Since 1990, Victorian rural women have met at annual events, Women on Farms Gatherings, to share common interests, exchange information, celebrate their contribution to their farms and communities, and support and nurture each other.

Each Gathering is linked by a tradition of sharing memories, symbolic icons, women's stories, workshops, rituals, farm tours, good food and fun. The meaning, identity and action expressed through these collective activities are often 'life changing' for participants and foster a deep sense of community.

These gatherings emerged as part of the 'rural women's movement' in Australia. This movement sought to raise the profile, opportunities and voice of rural women. The Victorian Gatherings were soon replicated in other states around Australia, and fed into the organisation of the world's first 'Women in Agriculture' conference held in Melbourne in 1994.

The Women on Farms Gathering Collection dates from the first Gathering held at Warragul in 1990 and covers the first 20 years up to 2009. The Women on Farms Gathering Collection is a community project involving the active participation of rural Victorian women in collecting, interpreting and sharing their histories.

A cow pat, mallee root and motherboard, are some of the 'icons' in the collection and offer a colourful and symbolic insight into the stories and experiences of rural women. These icons have been chosen by the organisers of each Gathering to symbolise and celebrate the leadership, unity, diversity and resilience of rural women. The collection also includes two large banners (one of which is used and altered at each Gathering), videos, photographs, a memorial plaque, memorabilia and a large collection of oral histories.

The collection has state and national significance. It highlights the diversity of rural women's experiences, documents the contribution of women to their farms and communities, the changing nature of agriculture and contemporary issues affecting the future of Victorian rural communities. The contemporary and collaborative nature of the collection has created important community links across rural and regional Victoria and has directly influenced the development of associated collections and research, including: toxic waste campaign, 2009 Victorian bushfires, water security, climate change, drought, sustainable agriculture, gender and demographic change.

The active involvement of rural women in the development of this contemporary collection has fostered new and exciting possibilities for museum practice and the history making process:

"...we are creating living history. This Heritage Project with Museum Victoria is the first time that the museum has ever attempted something like this, and to my knowledge it is one of the few things in a museum that I have ever seen, which hasn't had to die to be recognised, and I find that very refreshing."
Ann Jarvis (Inaugural member of the Women on Farms Heritage Group, Kergunyah)

"Collecting, documenting and displaying these stories through the community partnership between Women on Farms Gathering Heritage Group and Museum Victoria is groundbreaking. It is a model for how institutions may reshape their role to work collaboratively with communities to better interpret and represent their place in Australian life."
Kerry Wilson (Member of the Women on Farms Heritage Group, Violet Town)

More Information