One of the joys of being an Elder is that there are so many opportunities to continue to play an active role in the community for as long as you feel to. There will always be community events where we can contribute our wisdom and our lived experience for the support of others, both young and old! We just have to be open to recognising the opportunities when they come.
A year ago, a group of Elders comprising members of the Joy of Ageing website team and friends, had an opportunity to participate in the annual Girl to Woman Festival held in Lennox Head by hosting a beading table. The idea was that young girls and boys could make their own bracelet while being supported by and chatting with, an Elder volunteer. The beading table was so popular that we were invited to come back again for the 2017 Festival.
This year’s Festival was super successful with around three hundred people coming from as far as Tenterfield, Darwin, Melbourne, Canberra, Gold Coast and Brisbane to join the local community. The festival was a heartfelt and inspirational day, which is only set to expand in years to come. It included a singing and expression workshop, forums on using social media, a video workshop, True Movement, beauty and makeup tents, hairdressing, and a healing and nurturing tent for the parents.
In the words of the G2W Festival Host and main sponsor, Natalie Benhayon,
“Our Festival is about empowering young girls and women as they transition through to womanhood. They’re exposed to a lot through platforms like Instagram, fashion magazines and music clips, but the more we build confidence in their own expression and natural beauty, the less they need to follow what’s ‘out there’.”
The first visitors we spoke with on the day had been eagerly waiting for the doors to open. They were a group of three Elders or ‘Aunties’ – Helen, Cheryl and Irene - with ten schoolgirls who had travelled from Tenterfield the day before and were staying for two nights in the Lennox Head Sport & Rec facility nearby. Irene told us that the girls were from Sir Henry Parks School, Tenterfield High School and Saint Hilda’s Southport. The Aunties had brought the girls to the event as they felt that it was time to empower young aboriginal women.
Every so often during the day, a few of the Tenterfield girls and even an auntie would return to our beading table to make a bracelet for themselves or a friend, and it was interesting to chat with them and hear what they felt about attending their first Girl to Woman Festival. For one of the girls, it was the first time she had been away from home.
The beading table was a great attraction and we were kept busy all day with over sixty young people making bracelets alongside a few parents and grand parents. We were visited at the table by at least two great-grandmothers who were enjoying it as much as their great-grandchildren – the oldest great- grandmother was 86.
We encouraged the children to play with colour and light as they were making their bracelets and this was the aspect many liked most, spending time searching for a bead that was just the colour, shape and size they were after.
Chatting with the young adults who visited the beading table kept us occupied throughout the day. We not only met boys and girls but mothers, fathers, grandparents and as mentioned above, great grandparents.
Even the local Ballina mayor stopped by and was heard to say, “There should be more of these!” Irene from Tenterfield spoke for everyone when she said, “It was inspiring and amazing. We would love to attend again next year”.
As elders it was a joy to participate and support such a worthwhile and much needed community event.
Anne McR., Australia