AN INSPIRATION: Keynote speaker Natalie Isaacs with Strong Message Festival co-ordinator Dr Judy Banko.
AN INSPIRATION: Keynote speaker Natalie Isaacs with Strong Message Festival co-ordinator Dr Judy Banko. Deborah Novak

Strong Message Festival a life-changer for Grafton women

IT'S not every day you get the chance to change someone's life, which is why Dr Judy Banko believes the Strong Message Festival is special.

Dr Banko said the two-day festival in Grafton was a chance for women to come together and promote strength in unity, as well as an opportunity to grow and heal.

"The festival was a chance for those who came to deal with the deep inner things that might hold them back in life," she said.

"I believe women are the core of community and family and, if the women are strong and healthy, the children and the community will be strong and healthy too."

Dr Banko said it was amazing to see the difference in some of the women who attended the workshops over the two-day festival.

"It absolutely changed and affected lives, there was some real evidence of that," she said.

"Some of the women had major shifts in their thoughts and feelings, and they were able to deal with things they didn't know were holding them back, and they felt absolutely free from whatever was bothering them."

The festival featured inspirational speakers including 1 Million Women founder Natalie Isaacs, who aims to promote individual action by women on climate change through leading low-carbon lives.

Dr Banko said the concept of individual action by women in making a difference was empowering.

"The whole energy around the festival was healthy and healing and a sense of real joy among the women," she said.

"It was worth every ounce of energy we put in making it special for them."

Dr Banko hopes the Strong Message Festival, now in its second year, will continue to grow.

"Those who came last year were back again this year, and those who came this year said they are excited to be back next year, so that's a good sign," she said.

"I think it will grow as we bring more presenters together, but it all depends on how the women of the Clarence Valley see the festival and if they think it's important to them. I would love to think that it is.

"One woman had come up from Melbourne to visit family and friends, and saw an ad for the festival and came along, spent the day with us and said it was exactly what she needed. Who would've thought someone would travel across the country to find what they needed, so I think it was meant to be."

Dr Banko said it wasn't hard to convince the guest speakers to take part in the Strong Message Festival.

"They jumped at the chance to be a part; they said they couldn't say no," she said.

"It's so special, and the guest speakers recognise the value it brought to the women who participate. Once they've been a part of it once and see the value, I think they want to be a part of it again."

Dr Banko said her staff and students put in an enormous effort to make the festival a success, as did the guest speakers who volunteered their time.



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