I Can’t Knit! – by Janine, Guest Blogger

In my last blog I spoke about the enthusiasm, energy and smiling faces of new members who were enjoying their first taste of the Tea Rooms experience and how optimistic it makes me feel for the future of CWA. I met Janine as we came out of the train station at Olympic Park and in her words, “she hitched her wagon to mine” to find the show office and eventually the Tea Rooms, to start her first volunteer shift. We chatted along the way and her eagerness was quite infectious and provided a fantastic start to the day – so much so that I almost asked if she could bottle it and provide me with a dose of two! Instead I invited her to submit her thoughts for a guest blog spot so that she could also share with you her infectious passion for the Country Women’s Association.


“I Can’t Knit!”
This is a disclaimer I often use in CWA meetings, at market stalls and life in general. It is almost an apology at times … but I can crochet, embroider, sew and bake. I am allowed to not knit. I have had people look at me in disbelief over the last 12 months, both at the thought of me being a CWA lady and that I, again, can’t knit. Their responses range from “But don’t you have to be OLD to be CWA?” to “Isn’t that what they do – knitting?” and my favourite “Are you allowed to wear your pinup clothes and red lipstick to meetings?” YOU BET I AM!!


I thought the CWA was out of reach for me because I worked full time, until I discovered the many groups and branches on Facebook. I started stalking them, liking posts and discovered EVENING BRANCHES! Oh yes – there may be a chance for me yet. I checked my local branches for meeting dates, worked out which fit into my schedule and bingo – Hawkesbury Evening Branch ticked all of my boxes.

My first meeting was a little daunting. I had come straight from work and was quite nervous. I checked my lipstick, put my biggest smile on and proceeded to freak out internally … within 2 minutes I realised how wrong I was. I could not have fallen into a more friendly, welcoming and wonderful group of ladies. By the time my butt hit a chair I had a cuppa in my hand and was being greeted and introduced to ladies that I am now proud to call my friends.

I have attended markets stalls, contributed baked goods, helped with garage sales and Devonshire Tea and laughed my way through craft evenings. I was nominated as Handicrafts Officer in October 2015 and my boss at work thought it fitting to give me a knitted beanie as my congratulatory gift … a reminder about my non-skill!

IMG_20160327_180649-tilt shiftThe pinnacle of my newbie first year in CWA has definitely been volunteering at The Royal Easter Show in the CWA Tea Rooms. I have never seen a more efficient, well run enterprise that was so full of love and chaotic fun. Every single person was there because they wanted to be and you could tell. I was there for the two busiest days – Good Friday and Easter Saturday – so it was a baptism of fire for this newbie. I filled countless teapots of hot water, cleaned trays, cleared tables, prepared cups, filled plates with jam & cream and served hot scones to our beautiful patrons. I loved every minute of talking to the ladies, hearing stories about how many years they had worked in the tea rooms, meeting new friends from all over the state and learning how fast I can move when I needed to. Perhaps my favourite part of the Show experience was talking to our customers – hearing about the first time at the show, the grown men that can’t go past a scone, and the legacy of the CWA scone tradition being carried through generations. There was not a single complaint about waiting for a scone over the two days that I was there, and nobody left the line when they were told there would be a wait.

From my 6 am train ride in on my first day to signing off on my second full day of volunteering, I can safely say with a full heart that I have found my people … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Who Volunteers?

Firstly, an apology for the length of time since my last blog and the somewhat haphazard approach over the last few months. I will finish my term as President of the Country Women’s Association of NSW in just over a month and I think I have been a bit distracted by the light and the end of the tunnel, a family wedding and the salvaging of my neglected garden to host it plus a few unrelated issues that have tested my patience and temper. Emotions that sometimes get in the way of imagination and inclination.

Enough excuses, it’s time to be “onward and upward” as those with the stiff upper lip would say (sounds painful … wonder how the saying came about …?). So here we go!

I spent Good Friday volunteering at our CWA Tea Rooms, which is most efficiently run each year by the hard working members of our Show Catering Committee and around 400 “extras”, at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It is always interesting and enlightening to interact with the patrons, from both the city and the bush, who are either new to the scone “experience” or seasoned visitors having their annual scone “fix”.
scones - Jackie's sister

As I chatted to those enjoying a welcome rest with their preferred choice of sustenance whilst clearing tables (yes, clearing tables – there are no presidential privileges when all hands are needed on the CWA deck) I noted, with some pride, the respect most of them had for the work our organisation does. Equally impressive was the number of young (and “youngish”) members and supporters who are turning up in their droves to help us with the mammoth task of running the Tea Rooms, to a continually high standard, day after day for a fortnight, every year.

It was invigorating to see the enthusiasm, energy and smiling faces of new members who were enjoying their first taste of the Tea Rooms experience whilst simultaneously marvelling at the clock-work precision that ensures the delivery of the best-ever Devonshire Teas and other tempting goodies, to what seems like a never-ending queue of (thankfully) very patient customers. A huge thanks to both the novices and the seasoned veterans for the time given.

Barbara Reichart with Scone Tally - Jackies sister              IMG_20160327_180448

Some of the aforementioned helpers are not members, but they work like Trojans alongside us, to ensure the standard of service is maintained and the goods delivered on (or close to) time. Some of them are spouses (we offer “brownie point” recognition), others are siblings, adult children, friends or neighbours of members who simply want to help. How fortunate are we that they know such persuasive CWA members? A special thanks to the non-member volunteers who can’t say “no”!

After lunch I switched stations and moved to back-of-house duties and scone cutting. There is some debate over whether this is considered a “promotion” or “demotion” … I look at it as being just another cog in the big wheel that keeps everything turning. Either way it gave me an opportunity, in my very attractive, disposable hair net, to reflect on the happenings of the morning and progress my percolating ponderings about volunteering.

Who volunteers? Why do they volunteer? How do they choose which organisation they might join? Are young people interested in volunteering and if so, what form does it take? In this technological age could I be assisting some distant organisation from my home in rural NSW? Perhaps, if my internet connection could cope?????

I do, in some respects, have my own experiences to draw on, but they have, at times, been limited in choice by distance and access, like many other things in rural areas … for example; might I have been a surf life-saver if I lived on the coast? I’d certainly be fitter but my skin specialist would be shaking his head.

In my search for answers I did what all good seekers do nowadays … albeit at somewhat slower speeds (thanks Telstra) … I asked Google! They didn’t disappoint and provided me with a very interesting report from the NSW Government, which pulls together information from other, very reputable suppliers of information and can be found at http://www.volunteering.nsw.gov.au/about-us/second-volunteering-strategy

This report actually dispels the myth that volunteers are fewer in number and articulates some of the barriers to offering one’s time to serve others.

Methinks there is not a shortage of volunteers, but a shortage of ideas on how to engage them.

Any suggestions?volunteer-652383_960_720

Advocacy by Stomach Stealth

Many people are under the impression that The Country Women’s Association is for “older women” and something they might consider “when they have more time…” They also perpetuate the myth that we don’t do much except knit and take tea with our scones.

This assumption is usually evident when dealing with male politicians and some media interviewers, who mistakenly believe that their reference to the provision of scones for the sustenance of those participating in the current event is original.

Whilst it does get a little tedious at times, I remind myself (and sometimes those making the remarks) that it is the sale of those very same, simple but delicious delights that contribute significantly towards the projects our organisation has supported and the advocacy we have maintained, for over 93 years, in NSW.

Fostering an Aussie fetish for Scottish fare (say that, quickly, five times!) has raised millions of dollars over those nine decades which in turn has flowed to help millions of people, both here and overseas. Whether through funding for baby health nurses, parcels for our diggers, medical research, education grants, assistance following disasters, or raising our hands to help in the battle to defeat family and domestic violence; our little treats, via your stomachs and wallets, have allowed us to achieve much.P1020846

Keep an eye on the news over the next week or so because during our Awareness Week activities, which commence this Saturday across NSW, many of our members will be raising not only awareness, but providing funds, to help women and children deal with the effects of violence in their lives.

Each Branch will be undertaking different activities and whilst we’ve rarely shied away from the difficult conversations, for some the issue of Domestic Violence can be confronting, so some events will be focused on encouraging you to record your decision about becoming an organ tissue donor, on the Australian Organ Donor Register.

I can’t promise a basket of goodies and Grandma will definitely not be the wolf in disguise, but she will be happy to take your donation to keep him at bay.

Is your wallet up to the challenge of ignoring your stomach, for a good cause?

Mivale - high tea-edit (3)