The Country Women’s Association of NSW was formed in 1922 out of concern for women living on the land, particularly in isolated areas. It was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1931 and today boasts 10,000 members in NSW and the ACT in both urban and regional areas.
The first President of the Association, Mrs Grace Munro, believed passionately that a better life for country women could be provided through women, for women, by women. Today’s president, Tanya Cameron, and members across the state continue to echo this sentiment.
At the time of formation, country women were fighting isolation, an appalling lack of health facilities and the constraints of a male dominated society. The Association was built by women who had to watch helplessly as their children died from minor illnesses. These women realised they had nowhere to turn but to themselves – and the results were staggering.
Within a year of discussion, the Association was a unified, resourceful group that was going from strength to strength. The members worked tirelessly to set up baby health care centres, fund bush nurses, build and staff maternity wards, hospitals, schools, rest homes, seaside and mountain holiday cottages – and much more.
Over time the Government has taken over many of the social welfare responsibilities the CWA originally fulfilled and, as such, the CWA has become more involved in lobbying government and presenting the united voice of its members. It is a powerful and influential organisation that makes representation to Government on matters ranging from agriculture and environment to education and health.
The CWA provides a support network for women that encourages and fosters growth, friendship and learning. The organisation also fundraises at a local level to meet the needs of individual communities and on a state-wide scale to provide scholarships and support medical research.
The work of the CWA has changed over time but many traditions and procedures of the Association remain constant. The framework has been enduring and the objectives of the Association still reflect the desire to serve and a readiness to adapt.
The women of the CWA, while believing deeply that their role in the family is vitally important, are initiators, fighters and lobbyists. They have made localities into communities by providing social activities and educational, recreational and medical facilities.
CWA members contribute to local communities in many diverse ways and continue to provide an invaluable link and service for country women.
The Country Women’s Association of NSW was proud to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2012.