From the Namoi Valley Independent // 9 November 2018 // Article: Vanessa Höhnke, Photos: Helen Cygan

The Gunnedah Show Society event was held in the showgrounds, with highlights including a Women in the Workforce breakfast on Thursday and a dinner on the Friday night.

EIMEX committee member Helen Cygan said up to 2500 people flowed through the gates of the showground over the three days, with almost 60 exhibitors displaying their products.

“The exhibitors were all pleased with how the first event went and we asked all the exhibitors for feedback on what we did right and what can be improved for next time, and they’ve given us some great comments for future events and acitivities,” Ms Cygan said.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service raised about more than $3500 from gold coin donations at the gates and the Gunnedah Community Scholarship Fund will receive almost $6000 from a charity auction held during the Friday dinner.

The dinner drew almost 300 people to the Gunnedah Town Hall where they heard from former commando Damien Thomlinson, federal Minster for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Matthew Canavan, and bush poet Murray Hartin.

At the dinner, Gunnedah shire mayor Jamie Chaffey presented the EIMEX Student Innovation Award to Adele Michel for her son Harry Michel who has completed his final year of study at the University of Newcastle. His innovation was the “experimental investigation of grouted soil nails”.

Mr Michel will receive  $2000 from Regional Development Australia Northern Inland to further his studies or career.

The Women in the Workforce breakfast was a hit with men and women alike and was headlined by National Rural Women’s Coalition CEO Keli McDonald, Jillian Hamilton, Kelly Foran and Shanna Whan.

“It involved so many local businesses who sent employees along and it was great to have that support and get all the ladies together from the local community who don’t get the chance to do that very often,” Ms Cygan said.

She said about 130 people attended and the feedback had been “really positive”.

“We’re hoping regardless of what happens with EIMEX, the Women in the Workforce breakfast will continue on an annual basis,” Ms Cygan said.

National Rural Women’s Coalition CEO Keli McDonald is a local woman.

Guest speaker, local businesswoman and emcee Keli McDonald said the breakfast was “the highlight” of the expo because of the “fantastic local speakers”.

Topics discussed included sexual harassment, gender equality, inner strength, opportunities for women in the workplace, and the impact of alcoholism on rural communities. Speakers also formed a panel to answer questions from the audience.

“It was just a fantastic morning,” Ms McDonald said.

“It was a fantastic, positive vibe.”

Ms McDonald said she was glad that so many women made the time to be there.

“It was such an honour for women to put that time aside in the morning to listen to those speakers,” she said.

“They were just spellbound I think, by the speakers, by their passion, particularly for rural Australia.

“Everyone enjoyed it so much, they stayed as long as they could even though they had to get kids off to school and go to work.

“People hung around to talk to the speakers afterwards and that was true indication that they enjoyed the morning and liked what they heard.”

More than 100 turned out for the Women in the Workforce breakfast.

 More than 100 turned out for the Women in the Workforce breakfast.

Ms McDonald said the breakfast was only made possible by the work of a “battalion of volunteers” from the EIMEX team, with particular thanks going to Carolyn Mitchell, Tracey Reid, Renee Hooke and Helen Cygan.

“Without their support we wouldn’t have been able to put it together [and] so many organisations got behind it,” Ms McDonald said.

The local businesswoman said EIMEX was a “fantastic effort for Gunnedah” and she was “delighted” to have taken part.

“George Avard has been so inspiring and a driving force for the expo,” she said.

“He really led the team.”

Ms Cygan echoed Ms McDonald’s words about teamwork.

“It’s been an amazing committee,” Ms Cygan said.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of all the committee.”

She said the EIMEX committee would “debrief” on Monday night and “see what the future holds”.

We’ve got a meeting on Monday to debrief and see what the future holds.