After the successful Girl to Woman (G2W) Festival held at Lennox Head in February 2017, the Aunties and Elders who came from Tenterfield with a group of aboriginal girls, asked if a similar Festival could be held in their town. After much planning by a dedicated group of volunteers the date was set for Sunday 27th August.
Many of the volunteers, including some of the Elders, travelled to Tenterfield the day before the Festival to assist with the setup on Saturday evening. As this involved erecting marquees within the local Memorial Hall, preparing massage tables and arranging the various areas for the breakout workshops and discussion groups, there was quite a bit to do.
The setup became a community event before the Festival even started as everyone pitched in from 6 years to 79 years old, and did what they could to ensure that everything was ready for the next day.
As we had done at the Lennox Festival, several of the older volunteers set up a beading table to offer girls, boys and anyone else who is young-at-heart, the opportunity to make a bracelet with beads of their own choice, while in the company of Elders. This activity provided a space for young people to connect with both the other young people at the table and a parent or carer or one of the Elders who was helping out at the table. Some young people asked an Elder to help them choose colours and tie knots while others shared the activity with a friend or parent.
Everyone who visited the table got a reflection from the Elders who were managing the stall that ageing can be very joyful and not something to be dreaded as society constantly leads us to believe.
Three of the Elders who are in their seventies were asked by several adults what their secret was! When we suggested that they read about it in our book, ‘The Joy of Ageing, Esoterically’, two ladies bought the book and promised to look at our website.
As Elders we were inspired by how consciously present and focused many of the young people were and how much fun they had laughing and giggling together with us and with each other as they made their bracelets. It was as if the age gap did not matter! It was also very inspiring to chat with many of the children and young ladies about different aspects of their lives and how they were enjoying the Festival.
It was not only young people who wanted to make themselves a bracelet. At least one father had a go, accompanied by two young men who have recently graduated as nurses. Even they became engrossed as their bracelets gradually took form as they selected their favourite beads and added them to the thread. At the end of the day, most visitors were walking around exhibiting their new adornment!
We had a fun time chatting with them all and hearing what they had to say about the Tenterfield Festival – how supportive it was for the young girls to have such an array of activities and a full agenda of workshops and discussion groups including a singing and Expression workshop. There was even a popup Cafe serving delicious, wholesome food through out the day.
After the event the community feeling continued as many helped with the pack-down including one or two Elders who were able to do the light jobs! This event showed yet again that no matter our age, we are never too old to make a meaningful contribution to the community if we listen to our bodies and only do as much as we feel to.
It was acknowledged at the Festival that as Elders our greatest contribution is not necessarily what we do but rather the reflection we bring – that ageing can be joy-full.
As Elders, we have much lived experience which we can share with young and old alike. This seems to me to be a good reason to stay active and engaged with the community until our last breath.
Anne McR., Australia