“I don’t want to say, I told you so, but…..”

State Conference 1969 at Sydney Town Hall

The 1969 State Conference at Sydney Town Hall

“Towards the end of the 1960s, the numerical strength of the CWA began to decline…..A major concern of the Association was its failure to attract younger women. In 1969 the Country Woman commented that perhaps the older members had become complacent, even boring:  ‘The majority of our members are past their youth and with the best will in the world, cannot guarantee their present level of service…’”. ¹

And here I was thinking that direct and sometimes blunt comments were a new addition (or subtraction depending on your personal preference or viewpoint) to our social skill set! The chapter, titled Soul Searching (from Serving The Country by Helen Townsend), goes on to record, “It was felt the Association should make an effort to appeal to women who were more educated, ‘as younger women tend to be’ and to fit in with their lifestyle, ‘not have meetings late in the afternoon, when husbands come home, children have to be met and dinner cooked’”.²

The last comment will probably engender different thoughts depending on your point of view but for my part (especially when the kids were younger) a late afternoon meeting, which might have included a social drink/occasion, would have been the ideal excuse (& still is…) to opt out of the end of day multi-tasking duties, most often still assigned to women.

However, as usual, I digress. The point I am trying to make is that over the years various suggestions and ideas have been put forward to increase membership, preferably of the younger variety and inevitably we, the members of CWA of NSW have, in trying to achieve this goal, relied on “…substantial past achievements…” and “…have given ‘no thought to the humbug of “blowing its own trumpet”³.

I might, at the risk of being hung, drawn and quartered, also suggest that no thought would ever have been given to pay someone else to blow that trumpet.

Well, the adages of “fresh eyes….”, “nothing ventured…” and “you have to spend money…” spring to mind. As does the reminder of how much I moaned when, during my childhood, my mother would preach proverbs!

What I want to say, if I can reign in my thoughts, is that the State Executive Committee, at its recent quarterly meeting, gave approval to retain a Public Relations (PR) firm to promote the association to the wider public with a view to increasing membership and changing perceptions. OMG!

Before this news had (mostly) filtered into Branch land I had one of our, few, very young members ask whether CWA of NSW would consider hiring a PR agency to better market the organisation and its aims to women her age, because that’s how they could be attracted. Remember my comment about ‘fresh eyes’. In the same week I had another member of, shall we say, a different generation and who was clearly a part of ‘the grapevine’, suggest that those funds would be better spent elsewhere.

My thoughts, based on the response we had to the increased publicity secured by the aforementioned PR firm during our Awareness Week, compared to every week since, is that it will be money well spent.

If not, then I will have to wear the “I told you so”!

¹, ², ³ Serving The Country, Helen Townsend, pp209, 210

5 thoughts on ““I don’t want to say, I told you so, but…..”

  1. Well, something has to be done to increase membership or this organisation will fold, so I support the appointment of a PR Consultant. Having said that, the question arises as to whether the CWA is still needed in today’s society.

  2. Given the undoubted success of the PR Firm in marketing Awareness Week, I heartily endorse the suggestion of the ‘young member’. Way to go!!

  3. You may say that we are getting old but we can still go to our meetings and enjoy them in our branch we have. Some very lovely new members who are young and love what we do in CWA and are enthusiastic I have just received life Membership which was a great honour after well over 48 years. Dorothy from Coleambally argoon branch

    Sent from my iPad


  4. I agree with having some professional assistance with dealing with the media. Our publicity officers do a wonderful job. The recent training has been great and all effort over the years to assist publicity officers to do their job is well worth it.

    I do think we need some discussion about what CWA is for? With 10,000 members just here in NSW i do not think it should be doom and gloom but there should be articulated thought. I find our “pride in our past and faith in our future” not a very helpful summary of CWA. It may sound comforting to current members but it does not explain anything to someone thinking of joining.

    I come from a city branch (Belconnen) and it seems to me that city and coastal areas that are a large part of membership (and I believe have always been. Philip group used to be much larger, for instance) have different publicity opportunities but are also selling a different product. One of the things we say is “bringing the country to the city”

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