The idea of hosting an exclusive weekend away for lesbian women came naturally to Veronica Newman and Suzie Wright.
At the time, Veronica was a seasoned travel agent with a lifetime of experience catering to the needs of executives and discerning travellers in the UK, Europe and Australia.
They started Girls Own Adventures a year earlier in 1997 as a standalone division of Veronica’s fully licensed travel agency Albury Kent Travel after friends had expressed interest in joining them on a trip to Africa.
They knew they didn’t want to travel on safari with the usual heterosexual contingent and their friends felt the same, so they decided to create their own guided tours especially for lesbians.
Their first Girls Own international tour took a small group of lesbian couples and singles thousands of miles around Africa in a British army truck guided by two Afrikaans men with ‘Dorothy does Africa’ painted on the side.
“When the girls who were single thanked us for taking them as they found it hard to travel on their own, we committed then and there to organising at least one trip every year.”
Originally intending the weekend away to be an opportunity for promoting and developing their client base for their Girls Own overseas trips, it quickly turned into a community event with a life of its own.
“Our first challenge was, how do you attract a large group of lesbians and what do lots of lesbians like doing? Our answer – playing sport of course,” Suzie says.
The 18th Girls Own Weekend Away was held at Kangaroo Valley Golf & Country Club from Friday, November 4 to Sunday, November 6 2016.
It saw a fabulous group of 55 lesbians compete in golf, tennis (for the beautifully named Mavis Cup), handbag tossing, putting and best costume at the Olympics themed dinner.
The Stroke Correction Centre was perfectly located on the edge of the most challenging tee at Kangaroo Valley and sold welcome shots of alcohol that raised over $500 for Kenyan charity, Learning Development Kenya. It was enough money to send 19 kids to high school and one to college.
“The early years were interesting. With a large group of lesbians descending on the Village, we had mixed reactions from many of the locals. I’m happy to say that ground has well and truly been broken and acceptance has come to Kangaroo Valley – we are no longer seen as an oddity and the ‘only gays in the village’,” Suzie laughs.
“The famous theme night that happens on Saturday also started by accident when we thought a ‘white party’ would be fun, instead of everyone arriving dressed in all white we had women bowlers, nurses, doctors and even a judo ‘white’ belt.
“So our theme night grew from here, usually following the destination visited on our tours. We have had a French Night, been ‘Out in Africa’, relived our South American adventure, been to the Circus, the Wild West, Hollywood and the list goes on.”
The pair have even added an entertainer who loves to play golf – Denise Hanlon.
“Her funny quips and wonderful voice is a fabulous value add,” Suzie says.
“Getting a golf professional, Joanne Mills, to oversee our competitions and give lessons was the next step. We have many helpers who freely give of their talents and time, DJ Prue and now DJ JJ, friends who become whistle blowing umpires and roadies hauling sound, lighting equipment from Sydney.
“We couldn’t do all this alone and love getting everyone’s ideas and input, which adds to the community ownership of this event.”
Many love affairs have begun at Kangaroo Valley most standing the test of time. Lasting friendships and professional connections have also be made.
“We are very proud of establishing an event that has lasted this long and can’t imagine not hosting ‘the girls’ at Kangaroo Valley for a few more years yet,” she says.
Girls Own Adventures hosts tours and events throughout the year. The 19th Girls Own Weekend Away will be held in Kangaroo Valley in 2017 on November 3, 4 & 5 . For the latest updates, visit girlsown.com.au and www.facebook.com/GirlsOwnAdventures.