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.


A Place For You


Diversity…something that’s lacking, somewhat, in the front benches of Federal Parliament at present and yes, a pretty cheeky comment coming from the President of the Country Women’s Association!

However we’ve never claimed to be anything else.

And whilst we may not be very diverse in terms of gender, that’s where the bias stops.

Our members live in cities, towns and on farms. They are wives, mothers, professionals, grannies. They range in age from 4 months (yes months and she has lots to say!) to 100 plus. They are fifth generation Australian and first generation Australian refugees. Their interests range from International affairs to agriculture, social issues, baking, education, languages, politics, policy and knitting.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs we launched CWA Awareness Week in Sydney and I have had the privilege of spending time with some exceptional women who represent the diversity of our membership.

Gabrielle – the former member of the Australia Defence Force who has a Masters of Philosophy in Indonesia-Australia Political and Defence relations and can speak Indonesian, Chinese, Arabic and German

Annette – a …. year old powerhouse who is currently overseeing a 64,000 acre property in remote White Cliffs whilst her husband is away earning off farm income. In her spare time she manages software and disability product companies, looks after her sister in law and trains to be a volunteer ambulance officer.

Isabelle – a 21 year old university student from the Sydney’s inner western suburbs, who joined at the age of 17 and has won prestigious blue ribbons at the Sydney Royal Show for her baking prowess

You will also have seen blogs from other inspirational ladies like Debra, a professional Sydney based woman with a passion for enabling women to make good life choices through literacy and numeracy education; Tin, a Burmese senior lecturer in economics who, as a refugee herself, has a passion for caring for the land and human rights and is building schools and creating education paths for kids in her home country; and stay tuned for Barbara the vibrant member in her 70’s texting and tweeting faster than her friends can knit one, purl one!

This week has seen us embrace and promote the elements of the CWA that most people never hear about, because we haven’t mentioned them. Our members are normally quiet achievers, getting on with what needs to be done in their communities with little fuss and certainly no fanfare.

This week, however, we have been shouting (in a lady-like fashion, of course) about our efforts in raising and distributing funds for CHARITY, driving CHANGE and celebrating our DIVERSITY.

No matter your age, background, location or profession, the CWA has a place for you

p.s. Good luck Julie Bishop, if you get tired of all that testosterone…. www.cwaofnsw.org.au

CWA In the City, by Guest Blogger Debra Pinkerton

Sydney City Branch members enjoyed modelling authentic kaftans at a Moroccan-themed fundraising luncheon.

Sydney City Branch members enjoyed modelling authentic kaftans at a Moroccan-themed fundraising luncheon.

As we head into the inaugural CWA Awareness Week, our themes of DIVERSITY, CHARITY and CHANGE exemplify the driving force and enthusiasm of CWA of NSW.  There are many activities undertaken by the Association that often ‘go under the radar’ and this week is a time to promote the great work accomplished across this State.

As a professional urban woman living in Sydney I am proud to say I am a ‘city slicker’ member of the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales.

It may come as a surprise to many that 20% of the CWA membership live in the city.

Currently I am President of the Sydney City Evening Branch and the majority of our members are professional women aged in their 30’s or 40’s. Some have rural family heritage as daughters or granddaughters off the land while others were born and bred in the city and have no direct ties to rural NSW.

This DIVERSITY in our backgrounds is enriching as we share our different skills and experience.

Despite our city lifestyle, we are united by a desire to effect positive change within our local and state-wide community. The successes we achieve in driving this change are at the very centre of our pride in CWA.

While the tea and scones sold at the annual Royal Easter Show are a public emblem of CWA, the real business of our organisation is raising and distributing essential funds for medical research, supporting NSW families through scholarships, participating in humanitarian projects in Australia and internationally and lobbying government at all levels on issues as diverse as the environment, health, education and transport.

Our branch is part of Phillip Group which comprises 9 Sydney metropolitan branches plus Norfolk Island. The main focus for our fundraising is education. This year alone Phillip Group has distributed $26,000 in educational grants to applicants across NSW and another $13,500 through the Sylvia Osborne Scholarship for fashion and textile students.

This may be regarded as an act of CHARITY. However, these scholarships are a catalyst for progress.  With improved literacy and numeracy skills young people are empowered to shape their own destinies through informed decision making.

Sydney City Branch members share a conviction that the CWA of NSW is an effective and mobilised women’s organisation which advocates for urban and rural communities. We believe we can enable positive CHANGE.

I would encourage anyone who really wants to get involved in a grass-roots organisation that is making a positive impact for women and communities in Australia and overseas to join a CWA branch in their local area.