Audrey the Hatmobile

Hats Off To Outback Women 2016

Presented by Outback Arts, Hats off to Outback Women 2016 was an incredible opportunity for rural women to be involved in an inclusive creative experience while raising awareness and support for Mental Health in disadvantaged communities.

After the success of her 2015 millinery workshops, world renowned milliner Waltraud Reiner returned to outback NSW in May and June this year. Delivering 13 two-day workshops across 11 communities, she engaged rural women (and a couple of blokes!) in the skills of hat-making, providing an opportunity to be creative, socialise and learn new skills.

Waltraud, and her Hatmobile ‘Audrey’ were able to visit some of the smaller villages in the region this year, which allowed some of our most isolated community members to attend.

The ladies had a memorable experience, citing some of their favourite parts of the workshop as laughing, exploring their creativity, meeting new friends, gaining confidence and feeling a sense of unity.

Many of the women who came along stated that the workshop provided them with the inspiration to do things that they thought they would never be able to do. The workshops also sparked other ideas within the groups starting the conversation around new creative outlets and arts activity.

In stark contradiction to last year’s workshops where the project was a welcome distraction from the hardships of drought, this year our participants enjoyed the classes as well as the heavy widespread rain. Although ironically, some ladies from the land who missed out on being a part of the workshops in 2015 due to the hectic daily routine that drought brings, missed out again this year after they were rained in!

Aside from bringing the rain with her, Waltraud also brought a wealth of knowledge and inspiration with her millinery skills and mental health advocacy. She believes that hats are more than just a shelter for the head, they are a powerful means of self-expression.

I always found solace and support for myself in doing creative things. Country folk in Australia are often socially isolated, and lack opportunities to find time just to be with themselves in making beautiful things. When we create, we give ourselves a chance to connect to something within which often bypasses words and lets us see through colour and shapes.

Kylie Harvey of Cobar, shares Waltraud’s beliefs about the importance of creativity as it brings with it ‘social connection and mindfulness which helps keep our brains and minds engaged and healthy.’ Kylie was a participant of the Cobar workshop and after two days she had completed three hats and said every year these workshops with Waltraud help her to ‘rejuvenate and fill the well again.’

This project was presented by Outback Arts with the support of Catholic Healthcare through the Federal Government’s Drought Assistance Program.