Meet the Wild Women of Wollongong, an ever-growing community of women looking to make new friends to adventure across the Illawarra.
The group started on social media by Woonona resident Tahlia Russell as a way to connect with nature among new friends.
"I've always wanted to bring women together like in some way or another and make them feel like they're comfortable and safe together," she said.
The Facebook group holds all sorts of social events with a focus on outdoor activities such as bushwalking, skating, surfing, painting, horse riding and music gigs.
The 23-year old environmental field officer started the group in November 2022 with a few friends and some university students.
Since then the social group has expanded to women of all ages from all walks of life, with more than 3500 members.
"It's very empowering for women to come together to connect with each other to explore and do awesome adventurous activities," Ms Russell said.
Phuong Barraclough said she loves the alliteration of the group name and that alone made her click join two months ago.
The 42-year-old says the group is enveloped by a non-judgemental and accepting atmosphere.
"I've actually met a handful of women that I feel really safe to just be myself," she said.
"It doesn't even matter what we do for work, or you know what we've been through, but they just, we just understand each other and support each other, and that's really great with no other agenda."
Ms Russell said the inclusion of 'wild' in the name was deliberate.
"Wild is a very important key term to like just encompass like women and just being themselves - being wild, being free," she said.
The community also has many sub-groups, such as: LGBTQIA+ gals, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or ASD (autism spectrum disorder), skating gals, clean up crew, surfers, wild families, painters, Formula 1 gals, and the list goes on.
Kate Oetsch joined in the early days and described it as chilled out and friendly group.
"The day it went live, I was like 'About time we had something local'. So, I was super excited," she said.
She's been to multiple events with the group from rock climbing to running.
"If I want to go skating with someone, there's now a group on my phone, and I can just ask 'who wants to go skating today?' and somebody always says yes," Ms Oetsch said.
"I haven't come across anybody who's not just really open for connection and friendship."
Ms Russell recognises that joining social groups can feel intimidating but encourages women to give it a go.
"You're gonna feel a sense of community like immediately, even if it's just online, but if you join the events in person, like you're gonna create more intimate connections with people and the land."
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