Raise Your Hand

The State Executive Committee of CWA of NSW were recently in Sydney for our quarterly meeting and although December and January, in particular, are traditionally quiet months there are some very exciting times ahead for our organisation and so there was much to discuss, debate and decide.r0_24_470_288_w1200_h678_fmax[1]

The most important decision from the meeting was that we become a supporter of White Ribbon Australia, an action that sits intrinsically within the aims of our Association and one which endorses the resolution of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) of which we are a member society. ACWW is active in over 70 countries and has consultative status with several different UN bodies and close ties with the UN system through its representatives at UN Centres. The resolution reads “ACWW urges all member societies to focus strongly on the situation of girls and women who are victims of different forms of violence.”

As a starting point we will host an information session on domestic violence at our Annual Conference which is to be held in Tamworth this year. We will also be looking at other ways we might be able to raise awareness through our networks.

Statistics show that one in three women will experience domestic violence, so it stands to reason that over the 93 year history of CWA NSW there would be members who have either been victims of domestic violence or tried to support friends and or family going through the ordeal; with limited knowledge of where to turn for support and information and the constant fear of the possible consequences of overt action.

For years this silent torture has been perpetrated around us, in every part of our society, but our instincts are to “judge a book by its cover” and “mind our own business”. It is only now that our new Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, has been brave enough to take on and create change in ‘the system’ that we can truly begin to comprehend the extent of the problem.

The challenge to creating real change is ensuring the silent majority become vocal and active participants in the solution; we’ve raised our hand, will you?RaisedHands[1]

Diversity, Charity…….Change

ACWW South Pacific Area banner

ACWW South Pacific Area banner

In the December 1997 edition of The Country Woman Jenny Mitchell OAM wrote to members, as the South Pacific Area President of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), about her visit to the South Pacific Community Education Training Centre (CETC) in Suva where she met Gertrude Andrias from Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Gertrude was sponsored by CWA of NSW to attend the training centre for ten months and left her two children aged 6 years and 18 months with her husband who had given up his job to attend to that important task, so she could learn new skills in nutrition and cooking, health, literacy etc.

Seventeen years on and just over two weeks ago, I met Gertrude in Dubbo NSW, at the 16th South Pacific Area Conference – ACWW, where she was one of three delegates representing CWA of PNG and is a member of Jiwaka Branch in the highlands just east of Mt. Hagen. The Branch was opened in 2001 (by Jenny) and currently has more than 200 members. In all there were 13 delegates from Tonga, Fiji and PNG, representing the South Pacific Islands as well as delegates from New Zealand and every Australian state and territory. CWA of NSW sponsored workshops for the island members prior to the conference as well as accommodation needs.

During the week Gertrude gave a presentation highlighting some of the projects and activities she has instigated, assisted with or encouraged participation in, since 1997;

  • Established 3 more CWA branches
  • Led a delegation of 37 women to a National Development Bank Women In Business Summit in 2012 – training, encouraging and empowering 200 women who now own and run small to medium businesses in Jiwaka Province
  • HIV Aids training – home base care (funded by ACWW)
  • Technical and Business Studies Skills training for school leavers – since 2002 more than 2000 school leavers are now working
  • Drug awareness programs that have resulted in the destruction of marijuana crops by local young people
  • Community development projects like rice farming (initiated by CWA members) with technical advice and training provided by an agricultural college
  • Encouraging change of long held tribal beliefs and mindsets by working with rural women
  • Instigating a Community Development Course which will provide residential and online training, similar to that of the CETC in Fiji. The facility will be ready for its first course to be conducted in 2015 and will include courses as diverse as Human Rights (Gender and Development), Social Values and Ethics and HIV/Aids to Home Economics, Food Technology and Nutrition, Entrepreneur Skills and Basic Accounting.

CWA of NSW has, for 50 years, sponsored two women annually to the CETC in Suva. In 2015, when the Community Development Course commences in Jiwaka Province, more than 5 women could potentially be sponsored each year, to do the same training in PNG.

Last year Gertrude was awarded the Golden Champion by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Education, Training and Human Development Division. Gertrude’s absolute pride and sheer joy at winning this award were evident on her beaming face and those emotions were returned by over 75 CWA of NSW members when she credited her success to our sponsorship in 1997.


Something’s got to give


It is conflicting and confronting to watch the scenes of devastation caused by too much water in the Philippines as I contemplate writing about drought in NSW. It’s also a reminder that there is always someone suffering to a greater degree and that discussion about how best to cope with drought, whilst I still have water on tap, food in the fridge (with electricity to drive it) and a roof over my head, seems churlish in the extreme.

My rationale for continuing is based in the knowledge that members of CWA of NSW will, personally and through our affiliation with the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), be offering financial, emotional and spiritual assistance to the people of the Philippines. The new World President of ACWW, Ruth Shanks (a Past NSW President) will no doubt be active in the dissemination of aid from societies across the globe.

Disasters come in varied forms; some horrendously swift with deadly consequences and others are slow and insidious. Drought takes the latter form and invades relentlessly, day by day. One of our members penned the following to me recently; Our situation is very similar to others – feeding for 9 months now and no significant rain for 20 months. We had feed on hand in drought readiness but that only goes so far and this is a long drought. We would have sold much earlier (cattle) but the market was swamped due to the effect of Labor’s live cattle trade policy with Indonesia. We have now sold three quarters of our herd including breeding stock at record low prices. Queensland is helping their farmers and communities; we must be a sub-species in NSW!!!”

If the Government is going down the path of preparedness and being proactive rather than reactive their new policies should have been implemented prior to the current situation, or the old system kept in place until the details of the new, were finalised. Incentives to provide on-farm storage are useless at present, unless they come fully stocked with feed and the deferral of Special Conservation Scheme loans just increases the final amount to pay unless interest charges are also suspended.

There are those who do not believe in drought assistance and I know many farmers who would agree; pride, however comes second to starving stock.The majority of landholders would much prefer to be self sufficient and if income had kept pace with cost of production we would be able to do that. Of course the consequential increase to the cost of a loaf of bread or a steak for dinner would have consumer groups (probably rightly) up in arms. There lies the dilemma.

How “prepared” do farmers need to be; what time frame will be considered acceptable when we are deciding how much feed to keep on hand? How much money should be tied up, in storing feed, that could be used for other improvements like no till machinery to conserve moisture, fencing and increasing watering points to allow for rotational grazing which combined with sowing native perennials will increase groundcover to help store moisture .

There are some in the wider community seeking more holistic methods in the production of food and fibre whilst steadfastly refusing to provide support and at the same time demanding cheaper food. Something or someone has to give and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the weather.

Efficiency, economies of scale, sustainable management practices are some of the catchcries we’ve heard over the last few decades, but they only work for so long, eventually increasing costs encroach on those gains too.

Resilience, eternal optimism and the ability to take risks have long been defining characteristics of Australian farmers, but those traits and their spirit, is evaporating as quickly as the water in the farm dam on a 40° day.