Thank you to you all for your generous support of Highways and Byways throughout 2023.
We have had a wonderful year supporting Australian communities with our Small Grants Program to heal and grow with projects that encourage reconnection both to each other and to the land, as well as giving further focused support through our longer-term programs in Roma and northeast Tasmania.
Seeds of Connection
Megan Brown, who runs our Seeds of Connection program in Queensland, is busily preparing for a new program on the Sunshine Coast which will offer First Nations women the opportunity to explore their culture and identity, through sharing their personal experiences of their own lives. The Women’s Earth and Healing Retreat will be held this month, and will involve workshops run by local Elders, and the opportunity to reconnect on sacred land with a day at Nungeena, a sacred site for Indigenous women. We know from research how critical cultural recognition and understanding is for social and emotional well-being of Indigenous Australians, and we saw evidence of this in our program earlier in the year at the Yumba in Mitchell, Queensland (pictured).
We thank Mary MacKillop Today for supporting this Seeds of Connection program so generously!
Restoring Nature & Communities
Highways and Byways is very happy to announce that we will be continuing our partnership with Todd Dudley’s Restoring Nature and Communities Program into 2024. We deeply value models like this program that foster a truly ecological and regenerative approach; not just looking after the environment for the purposes of future resources and enjoyment, but nurturing the health of people and the land by fostering a connection between them that benefits both. The men enjoy employment where they are respected as individuals, whilst improving their health and wellbeing by connecting to the land and learning how to look after it for its optimal health.
This year Todd and his team (pictured, right) have restored 100 hectares of forest primarily on the eastern coastal catchments of Skyline Tier, including the high conservation value Diana’s Basin catchment. As the project progresses, some of their work will now focus on revisiting areas they have previously restored to ensure they remove any final pine weeds coming through. This follow up work takes much less time, but is crucial to avoid the pines taking over again as they would if left unattended.
In 2023, we extended our support to Free2b Girls to enable them to set up their organisation sufficiently to provide direct employment and training of facilitators to support the teenage girls in need of a safe space “2b”. As a result, Free2b Time has taken off and girls local to the Break O’Day region in north east Tasmania are able to receive individual and group support to navigate the challenges of living remotely. Tani Langoulant and her team witness leaps and bounds in the girls’ confidence, self awareness, direction and hope. The facilitators purposefully focus in on the strengths and interests of the girls, and a couple of them have further explored their creative expression through art. One of their beautiful artworks is pictured to the left. We thank Mary MacKillop Today, who generously agreed to support this program into 2024.
We are also very excited to receive funding from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal to start the Free2Fly program which will offer support to young women aged 18-25. This means Free2b Girls will be able to extend and develop their support both to girls who have been supported as teenagers, as well as local young women who are having trouble finding their way.
2023 Yarck to Yea Walk/Ride/Run
We enjoyed a beautiful day in country Victoria on Saturday 19th August at our annual Yarck to Yea Walk/Run/Ride. Many of our broader Highways and Byways community joined us to make the trek along the Great Victorian Rail Trail, meeting new people and sharing stories of our experiences of the land and our connections to the Missionary Sisters of Service. We particularly thank the Yea Catholic parish community who warmly welcomed us at the end of the event with a magnificent barbeque and spread of homemade treats.
Toowoomba Memorial Lecture with Rev Tim Costello AO
Rev Tim Costello AO (pictured, left) was this year’s guest speaker at the Toowoomba Memorial Lecture. I was fortunate enough to join our local branch members and the wider community to hear him speak so passionately about the importance of choosing hope in the turmoil of current times. For more information on the Lecture, including a link to the presentation click here.
John Wallis Memorial Lecture with Dr Rev Jake Mudge
Our Hobart Branch welcomed Dr Rev Jake Mudge (pictured, right) as the guest lecturer for the 2023 John Wallis Memorial Lecture in October. Jake spoke inspiringly on You are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood: living fully our shared baptismal calling. To find out more, or to watch the lecture, click here.
Finally, as we come to the close of another year, I’d like to acknowledge all of our wonderful volunteers who assist with programs, committees and events. A very special thank you goes to retiring Board members Jeffery Byrne (below left) and Brian Lennon (below right) who have very generously given years of their time and expertise to the Highways and Byways Board, and between the two of them, kept our Administration and Finance Committee focused and astute.
And from all of us at Highways and Byways, we wish you a joyous holiday season filled with happiness, laughter and cherished moments. We have much planned for 2024, and look forward to sharing our news with you in the new year.
Executive Officer, Highways and Byways
Yarck to Yea imagery c/o Fiona Basile photography.