Something to say and stories to tell … (if only we had the NBN to say it!)

I’ve been told that this blog really should be used to focus on issues that I have something to say about or to tell a story. For me, neither of these things should be too challenging (!). There is always plenty to say and I’m told I’ve always got a good story.

It is pertinent then, when we are considering “using our voice” to think about the very important theme that we have this week for the CWA of NSW’s Awareness Week around “Connectivity”. You won’t be surprised to know that I have both something to say and stories to tell on this very important issue.

I was pressed this week into really thinking about the human impact that a lack of connectivity in regional, rural and remote communities has. At first I found it hard, as I defaulted to the usual stoic demeanour of many like me that are simply used to “getting on with it” whilst we exist with third-world internet services.  Although, after sitting in my city CWA office and talking about the issues more with media and others throughout the week … it didn’t take me long to fire up.

Just how long are rural areas expected to wait for decent coverage? Really? I’m serious. We were promised the world with the NBN and most of us can’t help think we have been sold a pup. How long must we continue to hold our begging bowls out to government as we ask “please sir, can I have some more”…. more GB that is! The disparity between internet services in the bush and in the city is becoming more and more clear; and it’s not good enough. Readers, how would you react if, like a close community member of mine, you were locked into a $69/month contract for 2 years for a paltry 1 GB whilst on the interim satellite? It’s disgusting and the CWA have had enough.

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Connectivity in the bush is so important. I would argue more important than the metro areas where increased investment, for the everyday person, means being able to stream a few more movies. A significant investment in telecommunications infrastructure in the bush means far more than simply streaming Netflix and getting sorted with your online gaming. It means jobs, regional development, better education, better healthcare and increased community resilience. The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia group has been doing great things to highlight this issue. They need to be listened to and their recommendations need to be taken on-board.

I can’t help but be frustrated when I see MP’s standing up in parliament asking for better internet and Wi-Fi coverage on the Central Coast train system, when we have whole towns and whole communities that are missing out completely.

I hope those Central Coast train commuters get their better services, I really do. I don’t envy the long commute that they have to do. Many people in our district have to travel thousands of kilometres just to see a medical specialist. Fine you might say … “that is the cost of living out there”. To a degree this might be true, but often these same people are offered follow up appointments via Skype and online … which they cannot utilise as they simply don’t have the internet to do it. I wonder how the Central Coast commuters might feel about that when they can stream the latest “House of Cards” series to their iPad on their way home.

Apart from the human cost, there is a very real financial cost that occurs every day that we go by without adequate service. The medical appointments I speak about above, can be subsidised by IPTAS, who often have to subsidise many visits instead of one because of the inability for many regions to have their follow up appointments online.

We are constantly hearing from government about how we need to “upskill” and “increase capacity” of those situated in the west. It sounds like a dumb question but can I ask how we actually do that without the internet?

I am sick of hearing the rhetoric about why we only “need” a certain speed to be built. How patronising. Again, these comments marginalise and disenfranchise people that live in the rural areas of the state. Build it and they will come is what I say. People can start to think about doing things that they have never done before.

Against this backdrop, I also see struggles with representation. It is hard to know what comes first, the lack of representation due to poor connectivity … or the ongoing poor connectivity due to lack of rural and remote representation. By not addressing this issue seriously we continue to disenfranchise the communities that need to be empowered the most.

This week, I urge all of you to join with us in making this issue one that is heard about by your local representatives and decisions makers. Get along to a local CWA event, write to your local member, share this blog and share the stories that you will hear the CWA branches from all over the state telling.

CWA of NSW started in 1922 with aims that are still as relevant today and we have become a force to be reckoned with.  Some people speak of CWA with reverence and in a ‘hushed tone’ others refer to us as the Tea and Scone Brigade or Cranky Women’s Association … to me it does not matter as what matters most of all is that the CWA of NSW is still being mentioned and in the news thanks to your efforts.

CWA Awareness Week logo

Advocacy by Stomach Stealth

Many people are under the impression that The Country Women’s Association is for “older women” and something they might consider “when they have more time…” They also perpetuate the myth that we don’t do much except knit and take tea with our scones.

This assumption is usually evident when dealing with male politicians and some media interviewers, who mistakenly believe that their reference to the provision of scones for the sustenance of those participating in the current event is original.

Whilst it does get a little tedious at times, I remind myself (and sometimes those making the remarks) that it is the sale of those very same, simple but delicious delights that contribute significantly towards the projects our organisation has supported and the advocacy we have maintained, for over 93 years, in NSW.

Fostering an Aussie fetish for Scottish fare (say that, quickly, five times!) has raised millions of dollars over those nine decades which in turn has flowed to help millions of people, both here and overseas. Whether through funding for baby health nurses, parcels for our diggers, medical research, education grants, assistance following disasters, or raising our hands to help in the battle to defeat family and domestic violence; our little treats, via your stomachs and wallets, have allowed us to achieve much.P1020846

Keep an eye on the news over the next week or so because during our Awareness Week activities, which commence this Saturday across NSW, many of our members will be raising not only awareness, but providing funds, to help women and children deal with the effects of violence in their lives.

Each Branch will be undertaking different activities and whilst we’ve rarely shied away from the difficult conversations, for some the issue of Domestic Violence can be confronting, so some events will be focused on encouraging you to record your decision about becoming an organ tissue donor, on the Australian Organ Donor Register.

I can’t promise a basket of goodies and Grandma will definitely not be the wolf in disguise, but she will be happy to take your donation to keep him at bay.

Is your wallet up to the challenge of ignoring your stomach, for a good cause?


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Be Aware … VERY Aware!

The members of CWA of NSW are, as I write, celebrating our annual Awareness Week with activities designed to increase your knowledge of the diverse range of deeds we apply our collective efforts to addressing and how we go about achieving results for our communities.

This year we are concentrating our efforts on two issues:

  • To raise awareness of the existence of Lyme disease in Australia and advocate for more research, have it recognised as a legitimate medical condition by government and the medical fraternity and that more definitive diagnostic testing and treatment be made available in Australia as soon as possible
  • To promote our support for and involvement with the WorkCover Alive and Well Campaign.

Lyme disease (borreliosis) is an infection caused by bacteria that infects humans from the bite of ticks that are infected with the bacteria. Because the disease is not recognised as being present in Australia it is often misdiagnosed as other serious conditions like Motor Neurone Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue, Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.

The more I read about this debilitating and sometimes fatal disease the more convinced I am that CWA of NSW has made the right decision to support sufferers of the disease, many of whom have written to express not only their gratitude but also their frustration at a system that continues to fail them.

If you would like to read a little more or even offer support then have a look at Lyme Disease Association of Australia http://www.lymedisease.org.au/ and the Karl McManus Foundation  http://www.karlmcmanusfoundation.org.au/

lyme-disease

This year we are also raising awareness of the health and safety risks associated with working and living on a farm and have partnered with WorkCover NSW to support and promote their Alive and Well Campaign.

Country women spend a lot of time thinking, worrying and voicing their concerns about safety and many of us have been touched by safety incidents on our farms. For many of our members, farms are not only workplaces, they are our homes and children’s adventure lands.

Unfortunately, country people are sometimes averse to being given advice by those who do not work in the industry, so we are excited about the new approach being taken by WorkCover NSW to address safety on farms.

This campaign focuses on farmers (real farmers!) telling their stories about actual incidents on their properties that could have been avoided. The website http://www.aliveandwell.net.au also provides the opportunity for others to contribute their tales as well as advice and support and we hope that hearing from their peers will encourage our farmers to take their safety and their future, more seriously.

If anyone can tell a good story it’s a country woman and one of our State Vice Presidents, Annette Turner, will feature in media this week telling her story about some close calls on farm and when you live near White Cliffs (Google map it!) assistance is a long way off!

I encourage all women on the land to get behind the Alive and Well campaign by sharing their stories and encouraging their partners, husbands and children to do the same.

With over 10,000 active members across NSW, CWA of NSW will continue to raise awareness and drive change around issues important to our communities across the state.

Alive and Well

CWA of NSW President, Tanya Cameron, was part of the regional launch of the Alive and Well campaign at Agquip (middle) with Peter Dunphy, WorkCover NSW; Fiona Simpson, President NSW Farmers; Mark Walters, Tamworth farmer who features in the campaign; and Kevin Anderson MP, Member for Tamworth