Guardian news tribute to the Valley's exceptional women

Here's to our legendary local ladies: Their 'never-say-die' attitudes inspire others to rise to the top in a world often motivated to put women in their proverbial place.
Here's to our legendary local ladies: Their 'never-say-die' attitudes inspire others to rise to the top in a world often motivated to put women in their proverbial place.

ON this International Women’s Day, Guardian News would like to pay tribute to those from our community with the double X factor – the fierce femmes, and stoic stars, the glass-ceiling smashers, and the everyday allies who have shaped our world (often for 20 percent less money, if they’re paid at all).

While this is far from an exhaustive list, here’s to you, our Nambucca Valley warrior women.

Aunty Ruth Walker

Aunty Ruth has always shied away from the limelight, but her contribution to this Valley has been Herculean. She established Miimi Mothers in the eighties – a time when most Indigenous services were directed towards men. The organisation she created continues to transform the lives of countless women (white and black) in the community.

“She’s also a brilliant Mum and wife,” daughter Patricia Walker said.

“I’m honestly so proud to be her daughter.”

Amy Keough

From the rolling hills of North Arm to the bustling city of Jakarta, former Macksville High School student Amy Keough has fulfilled her dream of becoming a diplomat, as she steps into her new role as Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Indonesia. From her primary school days at Bowraville Central, the 29-year-old’s interest in languages and global affairs led her to Sydney and then Paris, and now advancing Australia’s interests in Indonesia.

Mavis Ward

Despite immense personal tragedy, this local lady has had a deft hand in preserving Utungun’s past, including honouring those locals who served in Australia’s wars. Along with her daughter-in-law, she penned a detailed chronicle of the area’s history, and continues to selflessly serve her community to this day.

“Mavis is also heavily involved in the Uniting Church at Macksville and Bowraville.  She assists the congregation in planning and assists in the administration.  This is quite involved as it includes the Op Shop at Bowraville,” Janine Reed said.

“Mavis is a somewhat shy and unassuming lady – but a lady whom I greatly admire.”

Aretha Stewart-Brown

Aretha is a proud Gumbaynggirr woman from Nambucca Heads who made headlines last year in Melbourne at the ‘Invasion Day’ rally. The courageous 16-year-old delivered a powerful speech in front of tens of thousands, making her the face of the #changethedate debate. Last year, Aretha was also the first female president elected to the National Indigenous Youth Parliament.

Gertrude Brook

The Bellingen-born, Macksville cattle-rearer was a real-life Calamity Jane, and Queen of the Campdraft. In 1951 Gertrude (Gertie) Brook rode her black gelding, Popeye, to win the Australian Jubilee Campdrafting Championship at Warwick, making the first woman to do so. In fact, the pair won over 100 drafts together. To this day, she is still the only woman to have won the honour.

Gertie on Popeye (from Argents Hill)

Gertie on Popeye (from Argents Hill)

Anne Gillin (a tribute from Janine Reed)

Anne has survived in the blokey legal world.  I think Anne’s story is interesting in that she accompanied her husband, Dr Danny Ryan, to the Nambucca Shire and the job she had lined up for herself never eventuated.  By her diligence alone, she took a path that she never envisaged, that of establishing her own practice.  This was an incredible achievement and her practice has gone from strength to strength and Anne now employs a number of people.  Anne’s was not an easy path, but a young lady, a mother and wife to a busy doctor – new to the area where localism is so important, survived.  Anne served on the board of Nambucca Valley Care, and when there was an attempt to dispose of this community asset to another organisation, Anne fought hard to retain NVC in local hands and since that time NVC has grown from strength to strength.

The Nambucca Valley Women’s Business Network committee

The amazing female force behind the NVWBN are five dynamic local ladies: Elizabeth Bond, Sara Foley, Trudi Hayes, Lynette Howle and Libby Foster; all successful ladies in their own right. Last year they birthed an organisation which filled a rather gaping hole in the Valley – a place for ‘birds of business’ to come together and boost each other up – the way women do best! They have been going from strength to strength, attracting new membership and changing the face of business in the Valley for ever.

“All of us feel really passionately about bringing women together. And the organisational power of women who feel motivated and empowered to support other women is an unstoppable force,” president Elizabeth Bond said.