Country Women’s Association or CWA for short, are renowned for their scones and delicious baking… but there is so much more. The largest women’s organisation in Australia that gives country women a voice and aims to improve conditions for country women and their families.
We have been called “Cranky Women’s Association” and “Chicks With Attitude”. In my opinion… the CWA acronym should really stand for “Courageous Women Appeal”.
With over 8,000 members, CWA offers a range of services from being a social outlet for women… to lobbying the Governments for change. CWA is at the centre of it all… helping the local community and creating a network of support. CWA provides a forum for all women
I did not even know what CWA was all about, until I joined a small rural CWA branch 8 years ago. From my first meeting, I was inspired… joined up and unaware that a friendly group of women, would impact my life so significantly. First I enjoyed having an outlet where once a month I could leave the farm and enjoy other women’s conversation, stories were shared and friendships formed. As I started to understand how CWA really works, I was enthusiastic to get involved more and make a difference.
CWA begin back in 1922 when country women were fighting isolation and a lack of health facilities. Within the first year, these women became a unified and resourceful group. Can you imagine what it must have been like for these women and to appreciate the strength and commitment they had. They worked tirelessly to set up baby health care centres, fund bush nurses, build and staff maternity wards, hospitals and schools. These women used initiative and were lobbyists making it happen. They provided social activities, educational, recreational and medical facilities.
Many people may not know this, but CWA was responsible for many significant improvements in our communities such as:
- Baby Health Care Centres
- School zones flashing lights
- White lines put on bitumen country roads
- Safety seat belts on buses
- Rest Rooms
- Home Hospitality
- Meals on Wheels
- Community Health Centres
- Improved Dental Services
- Prevention of Domestic Violence
- Low-alcohol Beer
- On-Farm Quad Bike Safety
- Mental Health Support
The biggest fundraiser for CWA is the Tea Rooms at the Sydney Royal Easter Show where more than 350 volunteers work, bake and help feed a hungry crowd during the 12-day show. CWA has served scones at the Easter Show for more than 60 years. They bake and sell over 50,000 scones as well as a variety of other food and beverages.
CWA fundraising efforts support community members by way of:
- Educational Grants & Scholarships – for individuals applying for a variety of scholarships each year, for their education in schooling, artistic ability, hospitality, humanitarian and the health industry.
- Medical Research – to assist in the research of medical projects. Current project being funded is the research for Endometriosis.
- Disaster Relief Fund – to assist people and communities in need as a result of a disaster. Current disaster relief is Drought Assistance and the Tathra Bushfires.
CWA is also involved in learning, competitions and personal achievements all throughout the year in:
- International – Country of Study, Competitions & ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World).
- Agricultural & Environmental – Study of Flora, Fauna, Foe & Primary Product, which are selected each year.
- Cultural – events, competitions, tours, photography & writing.
- Handicraft – Branch, Group & State Handicraft Competitions.
- The Land Cookery – Competition as per Cookery Schedule and sponsored by The Land newspaper.
- Hospital Support – support hospitals, Ronald McDonald House, nursing homes & women’s refuges by donating knitted & crocheted rugs, teddies, breast cancer cushions, premmie baby clothes, stillborn dresses and Emergency Packs.
- Social Issues – equity of access to services in rural, remote & regional areas, regional development and gender equity.
CWA of NSW members comprise of women from all walks of life in town and country. There is over 370 local branches statewide, working not only for the overall aims of the organisation but often for very specific local issues. There are 30 Groups which cover all branches and each Group meets quarterly to coordinate activities and hear reports from State Executive.
CWA of NSW hold a State Conference each year in May, for members to discuss and debate issues to bring legislative change. When I attended my first CWA State Conference, I realised the magnitude of what CWA is all about. It really opened my eyes and to see the significant difference that CWA makes at a State level… is life-changing.
With a changing society, CWA branches have been changing as a result, in the last few years. With full-time working women, there are more Evening branches now as well as weekend, sunrise and an online CWA branch. I think CWA now allows for a wider age range of women and each generation can contribute in different ways.
We have a group of women… with a power house of experience over many years in CWA… and younger members with a power house of resources and knowledge to share. So although the face of CWA may be changing, the core values and purpose of CWA remains as strong as ever. Women of all ages with a variety of expertise are still unified, resourceful with strength of character, continuing to improve our lives.
So there you have it… CWA is definitely “Not Just Tea & Scones”. They are making a difference in our lives. They have a voice in the nation’s affairs but also provide a valuable service to our country. A remarkable organisation, that makes me proud.
For more information see CWA of NSW.
Take care, Karen.