A history of Woman Within in Australia

Woman Within International (WWI) has long had a strong affiliation with the Mankind Project (MKP) and that continues throughout the developing Australian communities. Prior to 2003, MKP was already established in Queensland and New Zealand. Newly initiated men in these communities inspired their wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters and friends to seek a sisterhood in which they also had a training ground for self-growth, and a vehicle for understanding the journey and work their men had experienced. Under the guidance of US Facilitators Carol Kahn, Rhonda Schadland and Dale Herink, women were encouraged to attend workshops and E-circles (Empowerment-circles which in 2015 were renamed Woman Within Circles) A keen group of women was formed in 2003 to envision the future and bring the Woman Within Weekend (WWW) to Australia.

Several Australian women travelled to the US to complete their WWW and inspired by their experiences, initiated the growth of networks and E-circle trainings in an effort to build community. The first E-circle training in Sydney was conducted by Rhonda Schadland (US) and Dee Read (Australia) in 2006 and later that same year, a “Visioning Weekend” was held in Brisbane to commence the mammoth planning required for two consecutive Woman WIthin Weekends to be offered in 2008. This included sourcing a suitable venue, purchasing equipment, accommodating staff, marketing and of course, filling two weekends with courageous women ready to accept the challenge of a Woman Within Weekend.

The first two WWW were held in the hinterland of the Gold Coast, in 2008, at Koonjewarre, Queensland with a Celebration evening following the second weekend. Fifty four women attended one or other of the weekends – coming from all over Australia and NZ with over 40 staff members attending from the US, UK, NZ and Singapore across the 2 weekends.
Beautiful gifts were given to the Australian community from overseas staff – rattles, stones, and the amazingly beautiful community necklace. A journal which records some of these pieces of history, along with the necklace, forms part of the assets of the community. Just 6 weeks after the WW weekends, 11 women attended the first peer-led Guided E-Circle intensive weekend in the hinterland of the Gold Coast.

Building on this momentum a second “Visioning Weekend” was held in Byron Bay. In November 2008 the first Australian Women Empowering Women (now renamed Woman Within Skills Workshop) course was facilitated by Rhonda Gaughan (US). The new committee formed in this year began the process of incorporation and in 2009, Waratah Woman Australia Inc (WWA) was born. Dee Read, one of the key instigators in the process, was appointed as Founding President, ably supported by Lisa Currie in the role of Secretary and Jacqui Wright as Treasurer.

The majority of facilitators of Woman Within weekends have traditionally been based in overseas locations, so a firm commitment and solid registrations are required in order for these facilitators to book flights and accommodation well in advance of the weekends. Planned Woman Within weekends for 2009 and 2010 were unable to be filled in the timeline required, much to the disappointment of hard-working and dedicated committee members. A further visioning weekend, with the support of Nancy Board (US) saw a new direction evolve with a focus on building community, which resulted in a number of E-circle trainings and links with visiting WWI trainers.

Meantime in Perth MKP held their first weekend in 2006 and alongside grew a community of women. Mechtild Moes and Melissa Frey initiated the formation of a group in Western Australia, which became the new home of Waratah Woman Australia in 2011. Inspired by the wisdom and experience of the women on the east coast, the new committee, lead by Susan Holtmeulen, successfully held two fully subscribed workshops in 2012. The support of initiated women who travelled from interstate and overseas to staff these workshops was invaluable, particularly as many of the committee women dedicated to bringing the workshops to Perth, had themselves not yet participated in a WWW.

In 2013 the committee successfully again offered two weekend programs: one Woman Within Weekend and one Women Empowering Women Weekend (now renamed Woman Within Skills Workshop). Both weekends were fully subscribed and having a second-level training has assisted the Australian community to grow with the ultimate aim of having more E-circles (now Woman Within Circles) offering ongoing support and opportunities for growth. Ultimately with the aim of having Australian women on the WWW facilitation and leadership teams within a few years. In this year, the inaugural “Wise Woman Gathering” was held in conjunction with the AGM, offering both an opportunity for initiated women to gather to share both their vision for the future and honour the past. The Wise Woman Gathering has now become an annual event.

Weekends in 2014 were again postponed, however the committee were undeterred and continued to strive for community engagement, visiting the five existing E-circles in Perth and surveying the community of initiated women to further hone the direction for the association. The first “Day of Work” program for initiated women was run in 2014, continuing and developing the powerful circle work commenced with the E-circle process. Also in this year, Waratah Woman Australia Inc took the bold step of re-branding, along with Woman Within International, and re-formed as Woman Within Western Australia, incorporating under WA state law.

In 2015, Woman Within Western Australia Inc held the first “Train the Trainer” an opportunity for women involved in Woman Within Circles to hone their skills and also continue to organise and co-facilitate ongoing “Day of Work” workshops. The first “Staff Intention Ritual” was a community gathering of initiated women which set a powerful intention for creating a safe and loving space for the 32 women who will participate in the Woman Within Weekend 11 -13 September 2015.

With five Australian Woman Within Weekends completed and around 160 initiated women, the committee and the community are finding ways to continue Woman Within Weekends in Australia. Many passionate women have travelled or are planning to travel overseas to staff WW weekends and/or to attend advanced trainings which will certainly contribute to the Australian community strengthening and growing. The vision is that each community in Australia and New Zealand is supported in growing and when ready and able, can form a committee and work with Woman Within International Ltd to host a Woman Within Weekend, or other WWIL programs, with ‘on the ground’ energy in the region.

Currently, the energy to do that is in Perth, Western Australia and as such, Western Australia is the region that is working with WWIL to host the Weekends and other programs in Australia. We welcome and support other regions in hosting the Woman Within Weekend when the time is right.

Expressions of interest from women interested in co-creating WWI history in Australia through contribution to committees, creating Woman Within Circles and growing community through events are always welcome.
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We acknowledge the significant input of the following women in the history-making of Woman Within in Australia:

2003 – 2004

  • Lisa Currie
  • Vivienne Elder
  • Bernadette Petzler
  • Claire Bate
  • Joanne Hathaway
  • Ros Bennett
  • Claire Drake
  • Sarah McKenzie
  • Kristie Mammen
  • Sze-Wai Ooi
  • Mandeep Paddam
  • Jan Wood
  • Danielle Goodridge

2006 – 2007

  • Danielle Goodridge
  • Lisa Currie
  • Vivienne Elder
  • Claire Bate
  • Kristie Mammen
  • Sze-Wai Ooi
  • Mandeep Paddam
  • Jan Woods
  • Joanne Hathaway
  • Dee Read

2008

  • Dee Read
  • Lisa Currie
  • Mandeep Paddam
  • Jo Hathaway
  • Viv Elder
  • Tracey Lord
  • Danielle Goodridge
  • Kristie Mammen

2009 – 2011

  • Dee Read (President)
  • Lisa Currie (Secretary)
  • Jacqui Wright (Treasurer)
  • Mandeep Paddam
  • Viv Elder
  • Joanne Hathaway
  • Michelle Herrmann
  • Tracey Lord
  • Dayle Tara
  • Julie Brasher

Expansion of the committee incorporated women outside of the East coast

  • with Leanne Smit representing WA (later to be replaced by Mechtild Moes)
  • Clare Docherty representing the NZ community
  • Jayne Barnard in Melbourne

2012

  • Susan Holtmeulen(President)
  • Mechtild Moes(VP)
  • Tracey Lord (Secretary)
  • Melissa Frey(Treasurer)
  • Jules Hurst
  • Suzanna Taylor
  • Rebecca Kohn with support from Linda Rawlings, Larissa French and Debbie Targett
 

2013

  • Mechtild Moes (President)
  • Tracey Lord (Secretary)
  • Susan Holtmeulen (Treasurer)
  • Melissa Frey
  • Jules Hurst
  • Karen Marsh (WA Secretary)
  • Sula Whitmore
  • Sky Groeneveld
  • Clare Bates

2014

  • Melissa Frey (President)
  • Susan Holtmeulen (Treasurer)
  • Tracey Lord (Secretary)
  • Karen Marsh (WA Secretary)
  • Mechtild Moes
  • Jules Hurst
  • Sandy Braiuka
  • Tashi Wolf

2015

  • Melissa Frey (President)
  • Susan Holtmeulen (Treasurer)
  • Karen Marsh (Secretary)
  • Mechtild Moes
  • Sandy Braiuka

2016

  • Melissa Frey (President)
  • Karen Marsh (VP)
  • Sue Dempster (Secretary)
  • Susan Holtmeulen (Treasurer)
  • Mechtild Moes
  • Sandy Braiuka

2017

  • Karen Marsh (Chairwoman)
  • Melissa Frey (Vice Chairwoman)
  • Sue Dempster (Secretary)
  • Sharon McBride (Treasurer)
  • Mechtild Moes
  • Sandy Braiuka
  • Susan Holtmeulen
  • Linda Rawlings