Rose Aston was born in Buka Island in Papua New Guinea but has called Gin Gin home for the past seven years.
It's where she became part of the local Queensland Country Women's Association and was able to share her love of food and cooking through the QCWA Country Kitchens initiative which supports communities across Queensland to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviours.
Her work as a facilitator for the organisation, and her journey in coming to Australia, has been told as part of Bundaberg Regional Council's Our People Our Stories initiative which aims to celebrate the community.
But it hasn’t always been happy memories in Gin Gin for Rose.
When she first arrived in the region, what was once excitement and wonder about a new place to live had quickly turned into loneliness and isolation.
“When I got here I looked for something familiar, someone who had similar interests to me or was the same colour as me” she said.
“I live 15 kilometres out on 26 acres and would come into town each month to shop while on the lookout for other black people.
“I was getting really depressed and isolated, I was really just searching for a friend.”
It wasn't until Rose watched a television show about the Queensland Country Women's Association that she realised she needed to find connections in her own way.
“I was just drawn to their whole concept of looking after women in remote communities. So the very next day I picked up the phone and spoke to the then President who invited me to a cent sale.
“I didn’t even know what that was and I just said, ‘I’m black, is that alright?', and she said ‘yeah, just come along!'”
Rose said upon meeting the group she instantly knew it was an organisation she wanted to be part of.
“They just wrapped their arms around me,” she said.
“Coming from a matrilineal community in Buka Island, which means that everything is passed down through the women, made being part of this group feel like I could heal, regain my confidence and rediscover myself again.
“Just meeting those women, I began to come out of my shell.”
As part of her QCWA involvement, Rose focused on a facilitator position in Country Kitchens which began in Gin Gin in 2017.
As facilitator she helped to roll out the nutrition program via the QCWA Country Kitchens program through a partnership with Queensland Health to provide the community with improved food and nutrition literacy.
“That’s what I did because I believe in health and I like the five key messages that they have,” she said.
“It was more of a community-based role to teach people about nutrition.”
Rose said being a volunteer in the Country Kitchens program supported her love of cooking and her food knowledge which had stemmed from her traditional roots.
“Back on my island home it’s the women that run the show and they taught me about culture and traditions,” she said.
“For example if I was going to visit someone, I must bring food, it’s just a tradition.”
Rose said her time in Gin Gin had made her grow as a person thanks to the wonderful community that had taken her in.
“That’s why I just love this community, because they just wrap their arms around and impart a heartfelt sense of belonging,” she said.
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