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30 July 2012

I'm joining the CWA, you can too

Last Friday I spend the morning with a group of the most wonderful women. I was invited to be the guest speaker at my local Country Women's Association (CWA) annual general meeting which was held at the new Botanical Gardens in Maleny. It's very rare for me to feel like I'm one of the youngest in the group, but in my mid-60s, I think I may have been. There we sat, about thirty of us - members and visitors, in a rotunda, set into the side of a mountain looking out over the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains.  Morning tea was served - scones with jam and cream and tea or coffee. Perfect. After all, this is the CWA.

Last Friday, with the vice presidents of the Maleny CWA, Cynthia Daniels and Judy Stubbs.

The Maleny branch of the CWA started in 1928, just a few years after the first Queensland and New South Wales branches opened in 1922. On 11 August, the Queensland CWA celebrate their 90th anniversary.

The CWA is a big part of my Australia and I'm sure it means a lot to many other Australian women who read here. Whether it's tea and scones at an agricultural show, being the recipient of drought relief, which the NSW CWA administers, support for baby health clinics or rural fire brigade, if you live in rural Australia, the CWA has influenced your life in some way. How many of us have driven through country towns to see those cute cottages proudly wearing the CWA badge? Those little houses may be called Rest Rooms, the CWA House, or the CWA building but whatever it is called you know that the good works of many women have happened inside for many a long year.

Over the years, during the wars Australian soldiers have fought in, CWA ladies from all over the nation worked to provide care parcels for the troops. That work still carries on today and the ladies in my branch at Maleny sent a much appreciated Christmas care package to an Australian solider serving in East Timor. They are also supplying birth kits for women in East Timor. During the Vietnam War the American government asked the CWA to help provide hospitality to American troops on R&R leave in Australia. As a result, over a four year period, over 280,000 American troops spent time with Australian families. And they do all this work with no fanfare, just quietly working away on cake stalls, selling raffle tickets, providing friendship, and being ready to step in when needed.

Just before the meeting got underway. The two men there were from the Rural Fire Brigade.

Nowadays, older people are often seen as being out of touch. Well, maybe some are but from what I could see of my local CWA ladies and those who visited from other branches, these are people of family and community. They help carry on the old Australian values of equal opportunity for all, resilience, friendship, compassion, and the rock solid propensity to stand up for family and neighbours in good times and in bad. 

I think CWA numbers are falling. My local branch has only 10 members, soon to be 11. I am joining my Maleny branch as a supporter member. I don't have the time to join as a branch member, if I could, I would, but maybe that is for a time in the future. But I do want to help maintain this strong and significant part of Australia and I can do that by becoming a member. You can too. If you live in the city or the bush and you'd like to support the CWA, go to their website and see what you can do.  This is from the CWA page: The CWA owns a range of properties built and maintained by members. In recent years there has been some controversy concerning the sale of the organisation's bush community halls. Some individual branches did not have enough members to continue paying for their upkeep, including council rates, insurance, electricity, water and maintenance. Nine halls were sold in New South Wales between 2003 and 2005 ... 

While I was reading through the QCWA website, I found the link to this story about what Germaine Greer thinks of the CWA. Read it, it's really interesting.

The way I see it is that the CWA has stood by us, working for the women and families of Australia for the past 90 years. Now it's our turn to help support them by increasing membership if we can, and by working with them, showing that we share those Australian values we all talk about. What's that saying about putting your money where you mouth is?

24 comments:

  1. It sounds like you have had a better experience with CWA than myself. I joined two different groups from different locations on different occasions and found both groups not at all what I expected nor read about. Twice burnt, not going back for a third.

    Glad to hear you have found a great branch.

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    1. They may want Rhonda as a member, but apparently they don't want me. I spoke to a nice CWA lady at the Royal Show this week, and she promised someone from my local branch would call me the next day..... nobody did.

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    2. Lauren, she probably forgot to pass on the message. Just give your local branch a call. :- )

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  2. As a member of, well heading for my sixth year, (and in my 30s) I must say I think it is the women who make assumptions about this vital group of 'nation builders' that are out of touch :) If you want to read a very good book that touches base with members around Australia I can highly recommend Billy Swampy Marsh's book on the CWA - it isn't dulled by statistics, it is stories from ladies all over Australia.
    Congratulations on becoming a member :)

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  3. In many country towns I've worked in, the CWA building is the only venue available for community get togethers and the members are the town's catering corps (and raising money through their work). Increasingly, they have only a couple of active members able to do the work. Unfortunately our local branch meets during the day, a problem for many working women...I know in some areas they have created sub branches meeting in the evenings to encourage new members.

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  4. I'm moving to a regional area later in the year - and had already looked up the nearest CWA. I'm planning on joinin. and yes - they need all the support they can get. Wouldn't it be lovely to see a renewal in the CWA.

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  5. How interesting. I wonder it's similar to the Womens Insistute in England?

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  6. I'm a member of my local CWA, and am also a "young 'un". A lot of the women in our group carry surnames that you see on street signs, parks and buildings around town....their mothers and/or grandmothers were not only first settlers, but CWA founding members. I enjoy my time with them, fundraising, supporting the community and listening to the old timer's stories.

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  7. Nicely written. I have driven past our local CWA building many a time and always been curious to visit. This is the encouragement I need to actually check it out :-) Sam xox

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  8. Our local CWA joined the list of groups which were closed about 18 or so months ago. The hall is now up for sale and that's a bit sad as it was built by local farmers and residents and opened in 1964, ten years after the CWA group was formed here.

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  9. Sam, yes, go in and say hello. They have a group for younger women now and many branches also have evening meetings for the women who work during the day.

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  10. Thank you for this post. Since moving to the country I have been meaning to join but haven't got round to it. this will give me a spur.
    Jill, Laidley

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  11. notjustgreenfingers: Yes, the CWA is similar to the Women's Institute in the UK.

    There are CWA branches in every state and territory in Australia (ACT is included under NSW) with increasingly more evening branches for working women too. Their websites should be easy to find on Google; it's worth seeing if you have a local branch and how you can get involved.

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  12. In the early 90's I was a member of the CWA in a small town called Kairi on the Atherton tablelands. I joined because our local play group was held there each Tuesday morning in one of those gorgeous, tiny little blue and white cottages and I used to take my toddler along. I was certainly very young to be a member, only 20 at the time, but all the other mums were members too. I do recall we did a few community drives, one in particular was getting families back on their feet if they happened to lose everything in a house fire. This used to happen more frequently than you might think. We would collect housewares, furniture, whitegoods, clothing, food hampers for the families, in fact several times the families were given a whole household without having to spend any insurance money. Some did not even have insurance. So it was a very worthwhile community incentive.
    I since moved away and am now on the Gold Coast, all my children are Uni age now. It sounds like your group is an active, good group of people.

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  13. My husband recently started a new job and found himself within the first two weeks having to provide morning tea last Friday for about 12. Wanting to make a good impression I invoked the spirits of the CWA and home baked goodies worthy of any home making magazine. It made a great impression and broke the ice in a very tense office. Being a country girl living in the city I used my local CWA cookbook from home which I've had for 20 years. I sent them a silent thankyou when my husband came home beaming with flowers.

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  14. I have always told my kids that when I finally retire, that the CWA would be where I would volunteer. The SES is a little to physical for me and they also do a wonderful job in the country towns. Thanks for your article Rhonda.

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  15. Rhonda, how wonderful to hear you talk about the CWA and especially the Maleny CWA. I remember as a little girl (before I was old enough to go to school), going to the CWA meetings with my Mum. I would sit on the floor beside Mum's chair and play with my dolls and toy cars (yes, I was a girl who loved her matchbox cars!). Although I'm now 46, I still remember the yummy food and I also remember how much I loved when it was CWA Day - I think now it was probably that feeling of community that was there. Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories for me. Gaye

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  16. but it is very sad when a branch has to close due to lack of members.

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  17. Thanks for your post. I've been wanting to join the CWA for a while but i've been intimidated by older members who may not accept someone younger with whom they do not have much in common with. You've inspired me to dig a little deeper and have a go. Thanks Rhonda :)

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  18. I belong to the Cressy(Tasmania) CWA. Our numbers are also declining and I am the youngest member at 57. Among other things we make small gifts (e.g. covered coat hangers) to put into a gift bag to give to newly naturalized Australians, we make up "baby boxes" filled with hand knitted and bought goods to give to needy new mums and we do catering for various groups and private individuals having functions which raises money for the various causes we support. We even have a Cwa shop where we sell cakes, preserves,and knitted items. Part of the proceeds from this goes to CWA while the rest goes to the maker -a good way for members to earn a little pocket money!! I`d encourage others to join and keep up the tradition!

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  19. Rhonda, I just recieved your book...all the way from Aussie Land! I have spent the afternoon looking through it. I absolutely love it! Being a singleton all my life I have never thought about myself as a homemaker, but lately I have realised that even single I am and need to be a homemaker who thinks about a more simple self sustaining life. Thank you so much for writing this book, it is going to be a real help to teach me to live a life I think I have always wanted to live.

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  20. I am 38 and a member for the second year of my local branch which is in Moggill. This is a large (over 100 members) and active group with so many different things going on. I mainly go to the Thursday morning social once a month and try to get to the monthly general meeting after spending time in my son's prep class changing the class readers, then I go and sit and enjoy some time with the ladies who are around my mum's age at the social morning. I don't at the moment work on a craft, but I do often take my laptop and work on my family photo albums. If I had the time I could also go to the choir, the drama group or the stitching craft day or any of the groups excursions. I also go to some of the monthly night social dinners when my husband is home and not working away... this month there was hearty soups in flavours I wouldn't normally try and dessert and a very interesting guest speaker from the Hear and Say Centre. I live far away from my Mum, mother in law and grand-mother-in-law so being amoung women their age is comforting. And I am gradually feeling more and more part of the group. It is a step out of my comfort zone and I don't have the protection of a child and his needs as I did in the playgroups I have attended over the years or my husband who I used to follow to Cricket Club events. I got to CWA meetings because I enjoy the company of women of all ages.
    I enjoyed reading this article and will share it on out local groups facebook page!

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    ReplyDelete

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