Quiet courage in country Victoria

courage panelThe announcement in November that international power company Engie would close the Hazelwood coal mine in March next year shone a spotlight on the town of Morwell in the shire of Gippsland.

So it was a timely coincidence that the moderator of Vic/Tas chose Warragul Uniting Church as the venue for a lunchtime chat about the importance of resilience and courage. Titled ‘Courage doesn’t need to roar’, moderator Sharon Hollis was joined by a panel of local women who shared their experience of living and working in the community.

Panellist Tracey Gibson, UnitingCare Gippsland CEO, spoke of residents already coping with the impact of natural disasters such as floods and bushfires now having to deal with economic challenges in the forestry and farming industries. Having grown up in Gippsland, Ms Gibson also spoke of the rapidly changing demographic due to urban expansion.

Ms Gibson said that for her, resilience and courage meant the ability to learn from failure.

“I tend to look at what others see as ‘failure’ as an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and how I could do it differently next time,” Ms Gibson said.

In her 24 years as editor of the Warragul and Drouin Gazette, Carolyn Turner has also seen first-hand the changes facing the community. She spoke of the importance of keeping the community connected through sharing local stories.

Ms Turner said courage is the ability to “keep going forward” in the face of challenging circumstances. She said long-term solutions need to be found for the area, and hopes that giving people a voice will empower locals.

The panel was also joined by Arfa Sararaz Khan, president of the United Muslim Sisters of LaTrobe Valley. Originally from Pakistan, Ms Khan is a member of the Trafalgar Community Development Association and is an active supporter of women’s empowerment and education.

Ms Khan said her work in the local community means she often witnesses the quiet courage of women to overcome obstacles, often through expectations of gender or race.

“Working with women in the local community, it is wonderful to see the process of transformation that can take place with the right support,” Ms Khan said. “Courage can be as simple as challenging the expectations of gender or ethnicity.”

More than 70 people enjoyed a lunch prepared by the Warragul UC caterers before joining in a lively discussion that examined issues of courage, resilience, faith and community engagement.

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