Queenstown Lakes Women is a safe and confidential place to learn about business, what you need help with in a variety of backgrounds, expertise and identities. A place to expand your views on current affairs, connect with others living in the region and feel safe to question standard ways of doing things here.
Our Unconference (first one in Queenstown!) was a half day event held on Sunday the 16th June. Fifty women settled into Sherwood Queenstown for a fresh look at having conversations and learning new things.
Our day began with a beautiful Waiata/ welcome from Kaumātua Darren Rewi who eloquently spoke of the safe space we wanted to create and the new learning we would encounter, our kauapapa (principle). It was extremely important for us to bring this voice to the start of our day to respect the founders of the land and the Tangata Whenua who reside here.
To mark a line in the sand about the importance of learning about local Māori kaupapa and spread that word amongst our group. We sang a beautiful Waiata “Te Aroha” to end the piece.
The birds were singing, the coffee was brewing and we were ready to go.
To explain: an unconference is a slightly different way of doing things. Come with no agenda, learn to listen to the voices of others, navigate through your uncomfortableness of doing things a certain way at a conference and feel free to leave one space and join another.
The board was up and attendees could choose the session that spoke to them most. Get to it and feel that it’s not working for you? Leave and join another.
Session titles were sent in by attendees a month previous and were sorted into ‘themes’. These then made way for a title of the session and cross referenced with the titles women had sent in.
“Girls being somebodies instead of somebody’s”, “I thought shit got easier as I got older”, “Why won’t my plants grow” were just a few of the session titles that ended up on the timetable. Three spaces to hold the groups and a beautiful spread for breaks and lunchtime.
Wandering around and hearing the constant chatter, the exchange of emails and phone numbers, the hum of ideas made my heart sing.
Some found the lack of facilitator difficult, some found one of the spaces to be too noisy but those difficulties were scaled. Women became their own facilitators, made sure those who hadn’t spoken had the space to do so. Managed expectations, personalities, navigating the morning themselves.
Feeling sometimes uncomfortable sometimes giddy with delight.
Prior to the day women who wanted to attend could request a partial or full scholarship (no questions asked) from the bank of donations that other women had added to when they bought their ticket. Buy one, donate one was really popular and an amazing way to get women there who usually couldn’t, wouldn’t, felt they shouldn’t. 25% of the tickets were given in scholarships.
Next time we would also like to include the support of childcare so women who couldn’t get support in looking after their Tamariki, could here.
As lunch grew to a close and the half day ended, women gathered chatting, hugging, sharing their time spent together. New friendships formed, new working relationships had begun.
A spark of magic of something new and bright and I was so lucky to be part of it.
We were so thankful for women who believed in us, gave it a go and made a space in (everyone’s) very busy lives. Thank you.