Looking Abroad

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Moroccan costume

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Timor Leste costume – the 2012 Country of Study

World War 2 undoubtedly made Australians more aware of world events and our relationship with the rest of the world, creating a curiosity about other countries. Within the CWA this was reflected by the creation of a State International Officer in 1941. Miss M. E. Payne was responsible for the CWA of NSW linking with the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) and the creation and organisation of an International Day based upon the study of another country and its culture.

1942 saw not only the celebration of the Chinese fighting off the Japanese aggressor but a strong focus on their history, costumes and cooking. In 1943, a time when the Roosevelts were revered in an almost royal fashion, naturally the United Sates were studied with branches celebrating with cocktails (non-alcoholic of course!) coleslaw and boiled corn. Next in 1944 was Britain, another natural selection based upon royalty, Christianity and democracy. It was not until 1945 that the CWA looked further afield with Brazil being studied, a country with a Fascist regime, poverty and oppression. These aspects did not dampen the enthusiasm of members for coffee drinking and Brazilian arts and crafts.

In 1947, several members attended as delegates to the ACWW world conference in Amsterdam, one of whom a Mrs Beveridge took a detour via Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a piece of hand-woven tweed for her 21st birthday.

Our celebrations now extend even further than a ‘day of’. Each of the 30 groups throughout the state are encouraged to enter International Competitions, whether it be a needlecraft with the theme taken from the country being studied, or hand dressing a doll in traditional costume, with even underwear being judged. Got to get that right! There is also a competition for schools to enter a book on the country by liaising with their local branch so children can be involved.

Now in 2013 our curiosity about the world remains strong – Morocco is our Country of Study, with members’ international days consisting of fashion shows highlighting traditional dress, shared feasts of Berber cuisine and guest speakers who have visited or are a specialist in a specific Moroccan area.

We are also still part of the ACWW with members and delegates currently in India for the 27th Triennial conference. This way members here in NSW forge links, exchange ideas and gain awareness of other rural societies from all over the world – something I believe Miss M. E. Payne would be very proud of.

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.

Tea and Scones Have Moved On

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Awareness Week has finally arrived and it’s time for us to tell everyone else, that we’ve moved on from tea and scones to a chai latte and strawberry macaroons.

Over a ‘cuppa’ (chino) we’d like  to tell you that our agenda covers a variety of issues; from protecting land and water to no standing on school buses; debate over foreign ownership to the adverse effects of energy drinks on our kids; issues surrounding mental health to ensuring the school curriculum includes teaching children where food and fibre originates.

While you’re polishing off that last crumb of macaroon you should know that we raise funds for scholarships, medical research projects, international aid and emergency and disaster relief across the state and Australia, respectively.

This year we are focussing our efforts on the things we are not normally known for:

  • Charity; in the last 12 months we have raised and distributed almost $1 million, in Australia and abroad
  • Diversity; our members are from all cultures, all walks of life, all ages and they live in the country and the city
  • Change; we are making better use of social media to communicate our activities, harnessing technology to benefit our members, reaping the rewards of sharing wisdom and history with energy and enthusiasm

We will be celebrating Awareness Week from 14th – 21st September 2013 with a host of local events and activities, which are listed here, if you would like to participate.

CWA of NSW is full of passionate, accomplished and committed women. They all have interesting stories and different perspectives on why they are members and I hope to share some of these with you during our Awareness Week, starting tomorrow morning – turn on the telly to Channel 7 at 9.20am to see me and a couple of marvellous members featured on Sunrise.

There’s a LOT more than just ‘tea and scones’ at this table!