“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

You Look… Different

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Traditionally we are not good at “blowing our own trumpet”, bragging about our achievements or promoting what we do. Boasting was seen as “humbug”! What a great word, HUMBUG! Wonder where it came from….

One of the areas we are focusing on this week, CWA of NSW Awareness Week, is change. Changing the way we harness the technologies and opportunities available to us, to shake off the thinking that boasting is “humbug”.

Let’s promote our website, share the topics on our Facebook page and blog ‘till we drop!

Tweets and instagram exponents, um…..well, you do whatever it is you do and I’ll catch up soon.

As discussed before, change is about perception and whether you like it or not, our world is changing, fast. Opting in doesn’t mean forgoing our integrity, ideals or commitment to those we support, it just means achieving what we can with the tools provided to us at the time. Just as we have always done. Except now everyone will know, not just us.

If we want people’s perception of us to change, then we have to change how they perceive us.

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!