Dear Mr. Abbott

What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

Firstly, congratulations on being elected Prime Minister of this great country. It is, as you say an honour, but also carries with it great responsibility.

The Country Women’s Association of NSW has, for 91 years championed the rights of and furthered causes for, women, their families and communities.

We do not possess unlimited financial or physical resources to be able to compete with other interest groups. What we do have is a proud history of frank, passionate, reasoned and informed contributions to many debates that bear striking resemblance to those we continue to be involved in today. It is for this reason I write to you now.

In your acceptance speech you said that Australia is once again open for new business. One of our main concerns is the protection of agricultural land, used in the production of food and fibre, and the precious ground and surface water that sustains it and us.

The resources boom has delivered a short term reprieve to governments struggling with debt, but at what long term cost. History shows us time and again that our march towards the 21st century has proven to be detrimental to our natural environment. What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

You also commented that the Coalition will not leave anyone behind. Members of CWA of NSW have continuously lobbied for improvements to health and other government services, telecommunications, road and rail infrastructure, law and order issues, equitable access to education, fair prices for commodities, the list goes on. It would be nice to think that, under your leadership, rural Australia will not be left behind, once again, on these issues. The vicious cycle of reduction and population drift from inland Australia will only continue whilst successive governments refuse to look further into the future than the next election.

We bring to the table a unique perspective on a wide range of issues, the ongoing concern and discussion around energy drinks is a case in point. We are now significant contributors in many of the debates that are taking place in the public arena and we are witnessing a growing trend to be included in the forums and discussions that lead to positive change. You will find a list of our current issues here.

You should know that alongside the fellowship, the charity and the tea and scones continues an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Australian families by continuing to articulate the concerns of our members in the only way we know how; forthright, fair and from the heart.

So we ask you Mr. Abbott to look beyond the next 3 years and create for future generations, as well as yourself, a legacy like ours, to be proud of.

Yours Sincerely,

Tanya Cameron

Balancing the See Saw


“Angst”, one small word that encompasses so many emotions; one that I used often in a meeting, last week, with Chris Hartcher, Minister for Resources and Energy.

Our discussions centred around the proposed amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) which, among other things, seeks to make the ‘significance of the resource the consent authority’s principle consideration…..when determining a resource DA’. According to the Minister, in legal terminology, the amendment does not favour any industry or natural resource over another. As a ‘layperson’ I had to disagree and after watching the 7:30 Report (ABC) on Friday night, it would appear I am not the only one.

The various policies of CWA of NSW are, in a nut shell, to request State and Federal Governments to develop legislation that protects agricultural land and ground and surface water systems (including the Great Artesian Basin), from adverse impacts of mining and other extractive industries. So when the Chief Scientist and Engineer’s Initial Report on the Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities was released my first thoughts on reading Professor Mary O’Kane’s recommendations were; ‘at last, somebody is listening!’ Then, a couple of days later, the release for comment, of the above amendment to the SEPP; I can assure you it was a fast return to “terra firma”! Luckily it was a patch that had not been dug up….

Now, before the ‘buts’ start, I know they relate to different extractive industries and governing is not as simple as I would like it to be. However the affects, of the wording contained in the SEPP, are more “angst” and distrust. The United Nations principle of balancing the social, economic and environmental capital or ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainable development,  seems to have lost ‘economic ‘to the other side of the see saw.

Having got all that off my chest, the Minister and I also discussed the role of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new compliance arm and whether they would be adequately resourced; what guarantees are in place to ensure that increases in CSG production would stay in NSW and not be sold overseas; whether open cut mining would follow CSG extraction and the difficulty of accessing factual information. Minister Hartcher has offered to work with us on these issues and to assist us by providing resources and information where possible to our members and their communities.

I am confident that the Minister will be happy to progress communication around the very valid concerns of our members and their communities and the government’s need to balance the budget, create investment in/opportunities for communities whilst averting a possible energy shortfall and the backlash over increased pricing.

Bogged or blogged? 1922 to Now

CWA Members attending the Annual General Meeting in Moree, 1924

CWA Members attending the Annual General Meeting in Moree, 1924

Blog, blogging, bloggers….I wonder what the women who attended the Bush Women’s Conference in 1922 would have thought these words meant? “What, you say someone’s bogged?”

It makes me think about what else has changed; how we go about doing things and how we view changes in our lives now, compared to then. Not that I know firsthand of course, I’m at the younger end of the “baby boomer” generation, only just scraped in actually!

My name is Tanya and I am the current President of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW and if you’re still with me, you are reading my very first blog! I have the privilege of leading the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the state, which has approximately 10,000 members in over 400 Branches from Tibooburra and Menindee to Sydney City.

CWA of NSW formed following the aforementioned Bush Women’s Conference, which was initiated by Miss Florence Gordon who wrote for the Stock and Station Journal under the pen name “Urbania”. Miss Gordon was supported in her efforts by the editor, Robert “Gossip” McMillan and Dr Richard Arthur, Member for North Sydney.

It was envisaged that “the gathering” would bring together a group of concerned people who cared about the plight of women in country areas, to highlight the issues and come up with some solutions. The following excerpt is from our history, “Serving the Country”, written by Helen Townsend.

“My wife is slowly dying before my eyes…we can’t get help for her. She won’t leave me and the boys and take a spell in the city’…In many rural areas…there was no community organisation and no facilities to support a family in distress. The Country Women’s Association came into being to fulfil this need and to enrich the lives of country women and their communities.”

This brings me back to change and how we perceive it. That one little word can affect every aspect of our lives from your vocabulary, actions and thoughts to values, morals, priorities and goals. Whether you treat it as good, bad or just different depends on your perspective. Whether you embrace it or reject it depends, again, on your perspective. The degree of change one accepts depends on what your expectations are in the first place. So from 1922 to now;

The provision of health services… the infrastructure is there but staffing and equipment remain a huge issue for everyone. There are still many rural towns with no permanent doctor, even in larger regional centres it can take weeks to see your GP and if you need specific treatment or to see a specialist…I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on television for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Angel Flight; it’s not Ad company hype.

Telecommunications have improved, at a price. Wireless internet $50/month/ 4GB, compared to cable ($40) or ADSL ($30) for 5GB. Go satellite I hear you say, at $500/month for 4GB it’s a bargain! NBN you suggest…can’t even find out if it’s available here, let alone ever going to be.

It’s not as difficult to “take a spell in the city” these days, unless you’re relying on public transport…or it rains. Local Councils are forced to close unsealed roads (with hefty fines imposed) after rain because they don’t have enough funds to keep repairing them, let alone all the other services they are expected to provide. Then there’s the loss of education facilities (or getting to them on a wet road) and let’s not get started on mining and agriculture…

My point is things have changed, but so have our expectations – are we operating in a “carrot and stick” world or is it just “greener on the other side of the fence”? I think the farmer quoted above would have been ecstatic to know there was a bush nurse and a spare bed for his wife an hour’s drive from home, that’s if he didn’t get blogged! Perceptions and perspectives change, like everything else.

So for me, the importance and relevance of The Country Women’s Association, in standing up and using our 10,000 voices to support women from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds in a non partisan way, is as important now as it was in 1922. We’re just changing the location of the goal posts!