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?