Successful Annual Conference of CWA in 1954

Recently I received a package from June Files in Broken Hill.  It looked to me as if it had been lovingly stored away and forgotten about for many years.  Reading through it I recognised some of the names as descendants who are still in the district.  The Barrier Miner was our evening paper and the Barrier Daily Truth was our morning paper – today the BDT remains but the Barrier Miner is ‘long gone’.

Below I have taken excerpts from the Barrier Miner 21 September 1954 –

“Members of the Country Women’s Association from several branches in the Far Western Division gathered at Wilcannia on Saturday for the 24th Annual Conference.  Many decisions of general importance to women were reached.  Domestic matters concerning C.W.A. were also discussed.

Delegates were present from Cobar, Collerreina, Coolabah, Hermidale, Marra Creek, Narromine, Nevertire, Nyngan, Trangie, Warren, Wilcannia, White Cliffs … apologies received from Bourke, Brewarrina and Girilambone.


Photo taken: Sydney 25 October 1949 – Mrs Rawlings, Mrs Snell, Mrs Eddy, Mrs Ryan and Mrs Burford.

The Opening …
“Opening points – The Association is State wide and branches/groups are only part of the machinery said Mrs Noel Thompson Metropolitan Vice President. She said the successful working of the association depends on the co-operation and support of all members.  The State Executive was after all elected by the branches and it was their task to carry out the branches wishes.”

The work of the Association had been formed to promote friendship and happiness among country women and thus make their lot a happy one.

Mrs Thomson asked for expansion of branches and membership.  The voice of the country women was already heard, but could be better heard by expanded membership.

Call to the Nation …
Miss Una Wilson welcomed Younger Set members and asked branches to foster this portion of the movement, for the Younger Set were the members of tomorrow.  They had a duty to the young people and if they did not help them someone else would and this could be the wrong way.

She also mentioned the association’s wish that the hand of friendship be extended to new migrants to the country.  Many things we took for granted were not understood by these people and we could be of help to them to assimilate our way of life by friendship and understanding.

General Work …
Miss Hall asked branches to be particularly careful when asked to attend various bodies as a representative of C.W.A.  This could be a dangerous practice for they may find their name linked where they least desired it.

Miss Hall also requested branches with a Baby Health Centre to keep accurate records of their expenses for it was headquarters wish to obtain.

A report from the secretary stated there were 19 branches with a membership of 1,074.

Motions carried from this conference …

  1. That the Railway department be asked to arrange for ice water on long distance country trains.
  2. That the association request the government to lift the means test of  the old age pension
  3. That the tariff to Keera House be raised to meet rising costs.


The meeting ended with all branches reporting successful years with many just completing new rest rooms or sufficient money to begin building.

My question to you in the year 2016 is … “what has changed”???


Opening of CWA accommodation in Broken Hill. Later all caught the bus to Silverton (ghost town 10 miles from Broken Hill) for a picnic.

“What big eyes you have, Grandma…”


So now the countdown begins for one of our biggest fundraising events, the CWA Tea Room at the 2014 Royal Easter Show, which opens on 10April and continues until 23 April, 2014.

The call has gone out to members and friends to either volunteer their time during the event or to send donations of jams, pickles and fruit cakes which will be on sale at the tea rooms and my advice here is, if you want any of these items get your skates on because hotcakes are like the tortoise to our hare when it comes to how quickly they sell!!

Equally popular are the devonshire teas, evidenced by the almost 41,000 scones produced at last year’s event and customers often comment that their show ‘experience’ is not complete without a visit to our site. Not everyone partakes of the classic afternoon tea treat; some enjoy a savoury morsel, a cold drink, the weight of aching feet and a chance to chat to our ladies.

The CWA’s ‘mantra’ of late has been that we are more than just tea and scones and once lured into the “lair” by the “bait” we take every opportunity to ensure the “quarry” leave unscathed, well fed and watered, but with a better understanding of just how heterogeneous (love my thesaurus!) our organisation is.

This traditional city/country event affords us the opportunity to espouse the diversity of our membership; be it geographical, cultural, youthful and energetic or, older and wiser. It allows us to discuss the various community and state wide projects our members’ support, the total of which is almost $750,000.00 annually. Members also embrace the chance to explain how the organisation is evolving to continue to meet the needs of the women we support.

None of this would be possible without the mammoth effort put in by the members of the Show Committee; 9 ladies who work extremely hard before, during and long after all the other volunteers have waved their goodbyes and taken their weary bodies’ home. The tea rooms would/could not operate without their energy, enthusiasm, organisational abilities and of course, cooking skills! They are “on deck” all day, every day for not only the two weeks that the show runs but before, setting up and after, returning everything to its rightful place.

It’s definitely hard work, but the sense of achievement, the camaraderie, the response from and interaction with the public, are priceless. Sometimes we just assume they love it; they wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t, would they?

I’m hoping to volunteer a day, early to beat the rest of you for the best jams and pickles, so make sure you say hello…….if they haven’t got me on washing up duty!


“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