The deep connection between storytelling and our identities was explored at a gathering of over 60 women at the Tattersalls Hotel for the Exchange on Thursday, June 8.
An initiative of HealthWISE, the Exchange is designed to empower women in their careers through the meeting of minds and sharing of ideas.
“We would like to know the impact that the stories we tell have on our personal and professional lives and look at whether it is possible to re-write the narrative,” HealthWISE chief executive officer Fiona Strang said.
Overcoming challenges starts with providing safe and empowering spaces where women can tell stories and build confidence, said Amanda Balcombe, Still Wellness health and mental fitness coach.
Amanda, along with fellow panelists Rose Lovelock and Kate Stewart joined Fiona for a panel discussion exploring ‘The Stories we Tell’ and the impact those stories can have on women’s lives and careers.
Director of the Armidale and Regional Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place, Rose shared the importance of stories in Aboriginal culture; highlighting the ways stories are connected to songs, dances and paintings. Songs are taught to children at a young age and leave them with lasting knowledge. Learning these songs mean you always have a “map to your Country,” she said.
She talked about what it means to be Aboriginal in Australia.
“You have to learn to walk between two worlds… but you can do it with pizazz!” she said.
Amanda said the stories women tell themselves can be deeply ingrained. All the noise from external influences including media, peers and societal expectations can reinforce these stories.
As a mental health professional, Kate shared ideas on how to support each other and grow from negative messages. “As we grow and mature, we see the big picture and comprehend messaging. Understanding (the) intergenerational dynamics of our families is important,” she said.
Considering others’ stories before making judgements and bringing yourself into the present moment by focusing on what can you see, hear, smell, touch and taste were practical suggestions with ongoing benefits discussed by the panel.
The Exchange is part of a series of events run by HealthWISE across northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, supported by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women.
The theme for Thursday’s event was suggested by a participant following a 2022 event and drew guests from Armidale and surrounding areas.
The Exchange aims to create opportunities for rural women in professional, leadership or business roles to meet, expand networks and exchange information with peers. Details of future events can be found here or by calling HealthWISE on 6771 1146.