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Give a gift to women on the land this Christmas

A ticket to a Christian women’s conference

If you’ve been wondering how to support people in drought-affected rural Australia, here’s an idea: give the gift of a ticket to OneDay, the Christian women’s conference held every May in the central west of NSW.

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OneDay hopes to raise more than $5000 to pay for at least 50 tickets to its 2020 conference for women in central NSW.

“Our community is regional and rural, not urban, and many farming families are represented. Most of our women are from small churches with limited resources,” says a member of OneDay’s volunteer committee, Jenni Owens.

“This year, due to the continuing drought, we are hoping to provide select women (particularly those from areas further west than Orange) with free registration, so they can choose to come without added financial pressure and enjoy a day of spiritual refreshment and encouragement.”

OneDay – a non-denominational conference on the fourth Saturday in May – has been running each year since 1998 under various names. It has grown from just 50 delegates to 500 women of all ages.

During the past few years, the drought has made it increasingly difficult for women in rural areas to get there. When finances are already stretched so thinly, and farm life is more demanding due to the need to hand-feed stock, many simply cannot afford the money or time.

“It’s $55 a ticket, but for people who are hard-up worrying about every cent, that can seem a lot. The cost of petrol to come to conference is also a problem because sometimes they are driving from 2½ hours away,” says Owens.

“For the last couple of years … we just can’t afford to go anywhere, do anything that’s not essential.” – Kathy Fragar

Once such woman is 49-year-old Kathy Fragar, who lives on a property in the dustbowl of central NSW and is a member of Nyngan Baptist Fellowship.

“Until the last two years, I have been going just about every year, almost since it started [in 1998] … But for the last couple of years, we just haven’t physically been able to leave the farm at that time. Also financially, we just can’t afford to go anywhere, do anything that’s not essential at this stage,” Fragar tells Eternity.

In previous years, she attended with her twin daughters, and particularly enjoyed the fellowship and the “amazing singing”.

“It was a good opportunity for us girls to get off the farm and be encouraged by other Christian women and learn about what an amazing God we serve through great talks,” says Fragar. (Read more about Kathy Fragar’s life on the land here)

Fragar’s experience of OneDay is echoed by many who attend, according to Owens.

“For women who come from further out, often their communities are very small, let alone the Christian community that they’re in. So meeting with other women is often very encouraging for them, and singing with 500 women is radically different from what they are used to,” she says.

“They also have the chance to hear a really well-crafted, truthful, meaty, gospel-based talk from a speaker on the national speaking circuit. [The speakers] are really well qualified, intelligent, articulate women who want to share the gospel.”

In past years, speakers have included writer Naomi Reed; Kate Bracks, winner of MasterChef Australia 2011; Jenny Salt, Dean of Students and Lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC); and Kara Hartley, Sydney Anglican Archdeacon for Women. In 2020, the speaker will be Janet Riley, SMBC’s Dean of Women and Lecturer, on the topic “A king like no other” based on the gospel of Mark.

“It gives everyone a break from everyday life and a chance to refocus ­– particularly at the moment in drought.” – Jen Owens

In addition to high-quality talks, there’s also the food! “The food is top notch,” says Owens. “We’re not doing packet sandwiches to try to keep the price down. In fact, half our ticket budget goes on food because we just want to make it a really special day for women …

“It gives everyone a break from everyday life and a chance to refocus ­– particularly at the moment in drought.”

While Owens is seeking $5000 to sponsor women such as Fragar, any funds above this target will certainly not go to waste.

“Some of these women [who drive long distances to attend the conference] come and stay the night in Orange rather than turn around and go home again at the end of the day,” Owens explains.

“Or, as the conference starts pretty early in the morning, some choose to stay the night before in town. So if we had lots of money, we could put them up in some accommodation for the night.

“We could also hold funds over for years to come and have a rolling fund to sponsor women. Even when the drought breaks, there’s still women who are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or other circumstances who need a hand, and we could use the money to go towards that.”

To “sponsor” a woman to attend OneDay and help meet other associated costs, or for more information, visit onedaycwc.org.au/donations.

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