MEMBERS and friends of the Kardella and Leongatha Twilight branches of Country Women’s Association (CWA) gathered at the Ruby Hall last week to celebrate CWA Victoria’s 90th birthday.
Volunteers from the Ruby Fire Brigade, Leongatha SES and the Red Cross were invited to join in the festivities, sharing a barbecue dinner and reflecting on many years of community work and friendship.
CWA members across Victoria have made significant contributions to their communities over the nine decades, tirelessly campaigning and fundraising, often ‘behind the scenes’, for public facilities, health and emergency services, and many other causes.
“We’ve done much more than serve tea and scones,” president of the Kardella CWA branch Lill Roberts said.
“We have a long history of effective lobbying on behalf of women in the country and their families.
“We’ve influenced public policy and the political agenda. We’ve provided leadership roles and effective political strategies for women, particularly for isolated rural women.”
CWA Victoria vice president Heather Scott, a long-time member of the Meeniyan branch, said the organisation has evolved along with society, and one such example is the establishment of night branches, such as the Leongatha Twilights, which allow younger, working women to participate in an organisation that has traditionally held meetings during the day.
Day branches, such as the Kardella branch and the original Leongatha branch, continue to attract retired and semi-retired women.
Members of all ages at last week’s celebration agreed the CWA is primarily a friendship group, with the freedom to pursue various interests from photography to small scale agriculture, and many more life skills to be gained than the domestic kind.
“Even young women with very high-powered jobs seem to get a real confidence boost from being an office bearer. They learn to speak in front of a group and to run meetings – things they might not get the chance to practice very often in their jobs but are of great benefit to their lives and careers,” Heather said.
“I personally love the sense of belonging and being part of a bigger community. Because there are CWA branches everywhere, you have friends in so many different places,” Lill said.
While no one could predict what the next 90 years would look like, all agreed that there would always be a need for a voice representing women in the country, and with a resurgence in interest in homemade craft and cooking attracting two new members per day, the future of the Victorian CWA is looking bright.
“People are looking to learn skills they might have missed out on because they were working or because their mothers didn’t pass on those skills to them.
“They really enjoy learning to make preserves, jams and pickles. Twenty years ago, all of that wasn’t in fashion but now people want know where their food comes from, and it’s even better if they can make things themselves,” Heather said.
The Kardella and Leongatha branches belong to the Gippsland Hills group of CWA branches, which was established in 1931 and also includes Bena, Inverloch, Korumburra, Meeniyan, Mirboo, Woorayl, and the newest branch, Poowong and district.
The Kardella branch meets at the Ruby Hall at 1pm on the fourth Wednesday of the month. The Leongatha Twilights branch meets at 7pm on the first Wednesday of the month at the Bairs Hotel in Leongatha.
All of the Gippsland Hills branches are gearing up for their upcoming group exhibition at the Mirboo North Hall in April and the prestigious State Handicrafts, Art and Home Industries Exhibition at Leongatha in August.
Here’s to 90 years of CWA