Social Butterflies Torquay founder Gemma Willocks pictured here with Tiffany Looker, an administrator who's heavily involved in running the group. Photo: KLAUS NANNESTAD

Butterflies zoom through social distancing

May 14, 2020 BY

Women in the Surf Coast thank Social Butterflies Torquay founder Gemma Willocks for having made lifelong friends.

“Butterflies for life is what a lot of people have said to me,” says Gemma.

The group started in 2018 when Gemma worked up the courage to spearhead a social club run by women for women.

“I had this idea of starting a club that was a lot more casual for people who don’t have time to join a traditional sporting club,” she said.

“I put a post up on the Surf Coast Community Noticeboard and I was hoping for 50 responses. Somehow we ended up with hundreds.”

Two years on, the group boasts more than 300 active members.

Gemma said she was committed to encouraging physical interaction between the women, but COVID-19 restrictions had forced the group’s 10 co-ordinators to innovate their monthly mixers.

“We’re still very much online communication to make sure that everyone has that support that they need through this time.

“We’re trying to be a bit creative with it, so we’ve been doing Zoom trivia nights.

“With most of us working remotely, we’re just starting a fitness fundraiser for Beyond Blue because it is such an important service right now.

“We’re definitely still trying to keep it going through this, and we’ll do our best until we can get back to what we really love, which is face-to-face interaction.”

Gemma said some of the ladies in the group had spread their wings and formed “sub-groups” based on their interests.

She said one had organised a fundraiser for the Cancer Council, and that the group was selling butterfly badges for the Deafness Foundation.

“The group is a platform to meet likeminded people. It’s become a big part of people’s lives down here.

“Yeah, I had the idea and set it up, but I’m certainly not the only one who’s volunteering behind the scenes to make it all happen.”

The young mum said many women found it challenging to make friends once they’re adults for a variety of reasons, with time, family commitments and work just a few of the biggest hurdles to jump over.

“I think it’s really easy to get caught up doing things as a couple, or doing things with your kids, but this is something where we really emphasise doing things for yourself.

“It’s time out – it’s women’s time. I think ladies need to support each other.”

While the group isn’t in the position to open itself to new members, Gemma said she hoped others would consider starting a similar initiative.

“The number of people involved in the Butterflies group shows that there is such a big need for finding new (and) casual ways to give people the opportunity to connect in the Surf Coast, but probably everywhere else, too.

“I really hope others in the community think about starting more interest groups that don’t require a big commitment or cost. The Butterflies works because it is a simple concept.”

Fellow Butterflies administrator Tiffany Looker described Gemma as an “amazing young lady”.

“It’s amazing what Gemma has done for new people that have come to Torquay in the last five years.

“She’s actually changed a lot of lives by starting this group.”