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Women’s conference inspires hope in Whittlesea

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Grace Frost
Grace Frost
Hi, I'm Grace Frost. I was honoured to report for the Review as their Digital Journalist from mid-2022 to the beginning of 2024. Ive since made a move to the Herald Sun.

By Grace Frost

A vulnerable insight into the events of Black Saturday and an explanation of true, unconditional love were among the many highlights of this year’s Beyond your Now conference.

In its third year, the Beyond your Now conference is a one-day women’s event at Whittlesea Secondary College.

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More than 120 women attended the event earlier this month for its ‘biggest and best’ instalment yet.

Familiar face to Whittlesea Christina Matthews founded the event as a safe environment for women to gather, form community and acquire the skills to move ‘Beyond their Now’.

Each year, Ms Matthews invites four to five women of faith to share their personal testimonies of triumphs amid hardships.

In a feat of vulnerability, this year’s speakers Diane Spicer, Bronwyn Wakelin, Jodie Saddington and Melinda Hatton each took to the stage to share their life stories on the theme ‘strengthened by the storms’.

Ms Spicer, author of ‘Unmasked’, encouraged attendees to embrace their true selves across their differing lifestyles, while Ms Saddington shared an insight into her life as a mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome.

Ms Hatton shared her story of supporting children through mental health difficulties and loving unconditionally.

Ms Matthews and attendees dubbed Ms Wakelin’s story a conference standout.

Author of ‘Hold On To Hope’, Ms Wakelin shared her account of surviving the Black Saturday bushfires with her family.

Ms Wakelin had not realised she and her family were in danger at their Kinglake home until she looked out the window and spotted her neighbour’s house on fire.

“It had turned completely black. You think of nighttime and you think of darkness, but when you’re in a bushfire, that black is really black. You cannot see even your hand in front of you,” Ms Wakelin said.

“I looked out into the air, and it was on fire.

“My only prayer was ‘God, help’.”

Ms Wakelin, her husband and two boys spent 20 minutes in the car driving through the fire, stopping to pick up a man who was caught in the flames on the way.

“I really felt like the car was being catapulted over fallen trees,” she said.

“We’re in a car, with petrol in it, potentially a bomb, but I just really believe that God’s protection was upon us.

“It was like what I can only describe as the parting of the Red Sea – the flames parted, we go through, and then I felt to look to the left and there was a paddock that was clear.”

Founder of the Beyond your Now conference Christina Matthews, far right, with speakers Jodie Saddington, Melinda Hatton, Bronwyn Wakelin, Diane Spicer and event MC Ange Smith.

Charity organisations Down Syndrome Victoria, Hands at Work Africa, Prison Network and the Bobdan Foundation each received $380, raised through ticket sales.

Ms Matthews also made a blanket, which was auctioned for $300, to be donated to not-for-profit group Destiny Rescue.

She invited women to attend the event next year for support amid hardship and for the community.

“This would be an event to get to and actually realise that the struggles that we think we’re in on our own, there are other people in who are struggling in exactly those,” Ms Matthews said.

“If you come along next year, you will definitely – I have no doubt – be able to resonate with at least one speaker that will help you feel like you’re a part of a community.”

More information on the Beyond your Now conference can be found at .

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