General News

So many reasons to celebrate 100th anniversary of state’s Country Women’s Association

The Country Women’s Association of NSW is celebrating its centenary in 2022 and in 100 days will mark the official date of the association’s 100th birthday.

The CWA of NSW had its beginnings at the Bushwomen’s Conference held in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney in April 1922. The conference was initiated by Dr Richard Arthur, MP for North Sydney, and Miss Florence Gordon, who ran the Home Page of the Stock and Station Journal.

Mr Arthur had been calling for the need to improve conditions for rural women and Miss Gordon had published a plan for a ‘Country Women’s Union of Help’ in 1921, partly inspired by the Women’s Institutes in Canada and Britain. At the conference, on April 20, 1922, an organising committee was formed, including Miss Gordon and Grace Munro, of Bingara, who was to become the CWA of NSW’s foundation president.

The CWA was focused on fighting isolation and a lack of health facilities, members immediately starting work on setting up baby health care centres, funding more bush nurses, and building and staffing the likes of maternity wards, hospitals, schools, rest homes, and holiday getaways for rural and remote families.

“These women were initiators, fighters and lobbyists, who were passionate about making rural and regional NSW better for those who lived there. For 100 years the members of the CWA of NSW have continued the legacy of those trail-blazing foundation members by improving the social, educational, recreational and medical realities for their communities,” said Stephanie Stanhope, CWA of NSW President.

“This year is such an exciting one for all of us and we’re so proud that the association formed all those decades ago has grown to be the largest women’s organisation in Australia and continues to positively contribute to rural and regional communities in so many different ways.”

In the 100 years the CWA of NSW has been in existence, members have helped bring about some major changes across the state. From the earliest days of the association, members were tireless in their efforts to establish more hospitals, maternity wards and baby health centres in country areas. Even during the Depression, when members themselves were struggling to feed and clothe their families, the CWA of NSW continued to lobby for better health facilities in the bush and were successful in many cases. The association went onto play an important advocacy role in the introduction of compulsory seat belts, white lines on the edge of roads and flashing speed signs in school zones.

Stephanie said the association had many events and activities planned for 2022, the biggest celebration being the group’s annual State Conference at Royal Randwick in Sydney, from May 2-5, which will be officially opened by the Patron of the CWA of NSW, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley. Thirteen branches are also celebrating their own centenaries this year.

“This is an important time to reflect on just how far we’ve come and the successes of the association to date, but just as importantly to look to the future and determine our priorities, particularly around our all-important advocacy efforts on behalf of rural, regional and remote communities,” Stephanie said.

“The association has evolved in so many different ways in the past 100 years to remain as active and relevant as it was when Grace Munro became the first state president, and we’re proud to give our members not only the chance to engage with other like-minded women, but to continue the tradition of improving the lives of women and families right across the state.”

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