Living in the bush can be an isolated existence, but not for those involved with the Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN), conceived in 1993.

Recognising the unique needs of women in rural communities in a state the size of Queensland, this not-for-profit organisation supports rural women, their enterprises, their families, and their communities. Its aim is simple – to create a strong community of women. They do this by building capacity through connecting women undergoing the same sorts of experiences with other women in similar situations and circumstances to relieve isolation. And strong women mean strong families and connected communities, the benefits of which trickle through all levels of society.

Georgie Somerset, who recently stepped down after five years as QRRRWN president, said: “I am always touched and inspired when women tell me what a huge difference QRRRWN’s support has made to their lives. This can be at the human and personal level of simply feeling connected or it may be skills development or networking.” One of the organisation’s recent projects is Baked Relief, a means of giving directly to those in need. Founded during the 2010/11 floods by Brisbane mother Danielle Crismani, it still links city and country as urban families and organisations bake goods to send west to people doing it tough in drought affected areas. To date, more than 600 fruitcakes and 17,000 ANZAC biscuits have been dispatched, and Danielle is “overwhelmed at the kindness of strangers, and the impact this kindness has, as the program is entirely run by volunteers. It’s humbling when drought affected farmers and business people receive a gift with a note from a stranger to encourage them.”

QRRRWN became involved after Danielle spoke at the 2013 conference in Blackall and then assisted with the Baked Relief drop off at Fairholme College, Toowoomba when Year 11 students used their Community Service Day to coordinate the dispatch of goodies to farming families.

There’s a history of helping others at QRRRWN. Community Recovery was a focus after the 2011/12 floods, when a series of four webinars helped participants develop strategies to assist recovery from trauma.The organisation celebrates women’s leadership in rural Queensland with the annual Stong Women Leadership Awards. It also creates opportunities to connect with government at all levels to build the profile of rural women. Newly elected QRRRWN president, Alison Mobbs from Longreach, says: “In these days of the World Wide Web, distance isn’t such a barrier to connecting. But there’s nothing like getting together face to face to galvanise a relationship.

That’s why the QRRRWN annual conference is so important. It’s held in a different regional location each year to encourage wide participation. Combining professional and personal development, there’s also a fun social side to this event, which is sometimes the only time women leave their farming enterprises in the space of 12 months.”Alison also remarks that: “Members don’t only live in rural Queensland. An interest in rural matters, be that food production, business, industry, tourism or creative community, is all it takes.”

Words by Janet Kieseker | Images by Rosemary van de Linde