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Country Women's Association

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Country Women’s Association (Australia)
Formation20 April 1922
FounderGrace Munro, Florence Gordon
Founded atCountry Club, Twyford House, Sydney
TypeNot-for-profit organisation
PurposeTo improve the conditions for women and children and make life better for families, especially those living in rural and remote Australia.
Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, 1928
CWA group meeting in Emerald, 1939
Country Women's Association of New South Wales meeting, ca. 1940
Cootamundra Albert Park CWA Monument

The Country Women's Association (CWA) is a women's organisation in Australia, which seeks to advances interests of women, families, and communities in Australia, especially those in rural, regional, and remote areas.[1]

It comprises seven independent State and Territory Associations. Historically there was an national coordinating body, but this was discontinued in 2022 due to the availability of other communication mechanisms.[2]



The first Country Women's Association in Australia was formed on 20 April 1922 at a bushwomen's conference held in Sydney, to coincide with the Sydney Royal Easter Show. The three-day conference was organised by a committee formed by The Sydney Stock and Station Journal women's editor, Florence Gordon, with support from her newspaper and Sydney politician Dr Richard Arthur, who first conceived the idea of the conference in 1919 because of growing concerns about the poor quality of life and limited services available to women and children living in the country.[3] The organising committee was chaired by Grace Emily Munro of Keera cattle station, who was elected founding President of what became the Country Women's Association of New South Wales.[4]

The Queensland Country Women's Association (QCWA) was formed five months later, in August 1922, at another bushwomen's conference held in Brisbane. Its founding president was Ruth Fairfax, who played a remarkable role in the development of the CWA in both Queensland and NSW, and the Associated Country Women of the World.[5] The CWA of Western Australia followed in 1924.[6] South Australia followed in 1926, initially as the "Burra Country Women's Service Association" with Mary Jane Warnes as its founder and first President. A metropolitan branch was formed in Adelaide in 1928.[7] The CWA of Victoria was formed in 1928, and the first branch in the Northern Territory was created in 1933, with the CWA of Tasmania following in 1936.[6]

During the depression years, the CWA helped those in need with food and clothing parcels. During World War II, CWA played a significant role in supporting the war effort, establishing a reputation for being reliable at a time of national crisis. Members made tens of thousands of camouflage nets and sheepskin vests for the military, reconditioned uniforms, knitted and baked comforts for the troops, catered for troop trains and recreation huts, and established the first Servicewomen's Club in Sydney.[8] In Sydney, they supplied volunteers on Mondays at the St Andrew's Cathedral recreation hut.[9][10] In 1992, the CWA of Australia was awarded the RSL Anzac Peace Prize in recognition of their outstanding effort in promoting international understanding and contributing to world peace in accordance with best traditions exemplified by the ANZAC spirit.

Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten's wedding cake


Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten were offered many cakes from well-wishers around the world [11] for their wedding on 20 November 1947. Of these they accepted only 12, including one from the Country Women's Association.[12]

They created a six-tiered wedding cake that stood 1.5m high. The tiers represented the six federated States, each of which donated ingredients. The finished cake was decorated with the Australian coat-of-arms on each side, plus sprigs of silver bracken fern, wedding bells and a spray of fresh white flowers in a silver vase on the top.[13]

The icing, spiced with rum from Bundaberg, Queensland, was made by D de Mars, an instructor in cake decoration at East Sydney Technical College. He spent eight days inlaying the four plaques of the Australian coat-of-arms at the base of the cake. It was baked in Sydney by the head chef at David Jones, Sydney's leading department store.[14]

The six tiers were flown to London in separate airtight tins in October 1947, for the wedding the following month. At least one of the tiers was damaged en route when the plane carrying the cake landed at Lydda Airport (now Ben Gurion Airport) in Israel. The local police called in pastry chef Shaul Petrushka,[15] who made good the damage before the cake continued its journey to London.[16]

Education, health and wellbeing


The CWA awards student scholarships; as well as providing instruction and encouraging participation in the fields of drama, art, music, public speaking, cooking and floral art. The organisation runs workshops for older members on how to use computers, electronic banking and ATMs. Submissions are made to governments at all levels on a wide variety of social issues. Despite the organisation's involvement in a range of issues and activities, the association with cooking, in particular scones persists.[17] Seen as part of the local community in many parts of Australia, and its culture the CWA provides cross-generational support for women's, and children's, health and wellbeing.

Property and funding issues


The CWA owns a range of properties built and maintained by members. In recent years there has been some controversy concerning the sale of the organisation's bush community halls. Due to CWA being entirely self funded, unlike men's sheds, some individual branches did not have enough members to continue paying for their upkeep, including council rates, insurance, electricity, water and maintenance. Nine halls were sold in New South Wales between 2003 and 2005, including halls at Cowra, Ettalong Beach and Jindabyne.[18]

CWA of Australia


The idea of creating a federal body bringing together the various State associations was first discussed in 1929, with the idea put on hold until 1945 when the CWA of Australia was formed at a meeting of State presidents in Melbourne. In the initial years, states took it turn about to chair the CWAA and host annual meetings. Victorian President Helena Marfell was elected first chair in 1945.[19] South Australia and its president, Helen Withers, carried the mantle the following year[20] and then, in June 1947, Bertha Mac Smith from NSW took on the role. From 1948 the changeover happened biennially. Over the years various changes were made to the constitution to make it more effective, while preserving the autonomy of member Associations. Significant change came in 1983, when new rules stipulated that the National President would be elected; in 1985 former NSW State President Dorothy Ross became the first elected president of CWA after a national ballot.[21]

The CWA of Australia officially ceased to operate in early 2022, with the organisation explaining that this was (in part) as a consequence of increasingly enhanced avenues of communication, which meant a single point of contact was perceived to no longer be required. In a statement issued at the time, it said the member associations had increased capacity to advocate on the issues of concern to their members, however limited resources did not allow for duplication of this capacity at a national level.[2]

Queensland Chapter (QCWA)


The Queensland Chapter was formed on 11 August 1922 at Albert Hall, Brisbane. Ruth Beatrice Fairfax was elected the first President.[22] This chapter celebrates 100 years of continuous service in Queensland on 11 August 2022.[23]

The first meeting of the Toowoomba branch was held at the Town Hall on 12 September 1922. Mrs Ruth Fairfax attended and spoke about the objectives of the organisation. The meeting resolved to hold a conference as soon as there were sufficient representatives to attend.[24]

The Queensland chapter was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in 2013.[25]

In 2017, the QWCA created its own perfume, '1922', to mark its 95th anniversary. It was released at 2017 Ekka and was developed by Damask Perfumery in Brisbane. The artwork and branding of the bottle was supplied by Brisbane watercolour artist Michelle Grayson.[26][27]



A 2007 ABC-TV documentary Not All Tea and Scones, written and directed by Carmel Travers and dealing predominantly with the NSW branch, has been released on DVD by Roadshow Entertainment.


See also



  1. ^ "Country Women's Association of Australia". Country Women's Association of Australia. 28 December 2021. Archived from the original on 28 December 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ a b "Country Women's Association of Australia". Country Women's Association of Australia. Archived from the original on 23 May 2022. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  3. ^ Harfull, Liz (5 July 2022). The Women Who Changed Country Australia. Sydney: Murdoch Books. pp. 19–27. ISBN 9781922616227.
  4. ^ "Grace Emily (Gordon) Munro OBE (1879–1964)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 January 2022.
  5. ^ Rutledge, Martha. Australian Dictionary of Biography: 'Fairfax, Ruth Beatrice (1878–1948)'. Melbourne University Press. Archived from the original on 23 April 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  6. ^ a b "History of the Country Women's Association in Australia". Country Women's Association of WA. Archived from the original on 9 July 2022. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  7. ^ Parker, Heather The First Fifty Years South Australian Country Women's Association, Adelaide 1979 ISBN 0-9595800-0-X
  8. ^ Harfull, Liz (5 July 2022). The Women Who Changed Country Australia. Murdoch Books. pp. 127–131, 135–138.
  9. ^ Sydney Morning Herald 2/2/40 p 8
  10. ^ Sydney Morning Herald 20/2/40 p 4
  11. ^ "And then lose count!". Reveille. London, UK. 28 October 1947. p. 3.
  12. ^ "Princess Elizabeth's Wedding Cake; With a Wedge Prepared". Illustrated London News. London, UK. 22 November 1947. p. 8.
  13. ^ "And then lose count!". Reveille. London, UK. 28 October 1947. p. 3.
  14. ^ Monique Ross. "Queen Elizabeth II sent a tier of her wedding cake to Australia in 1947. Who ate it?". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  15. ^ Christine Flinn. "Queen Elizabeth's Wedding Cakes". www.christineflinn.co.uk. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  16. ^ "Royal Wedding Cake Damaged". Nottingham Evening Post. Nottingham, UK. 15 October 1947. p. 3.
  17. ^ "Australian Films, Australian Movies, Agricultural References, Bush Poetry, Biographies, Childrens Books, Country Music - Fiona Lake". www.fionalake.com.au. Archived from the original on 14 October 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  18. ^ Gregory, Denis (26 June 2005). "Boss sells CWA meeting halls". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 21 April 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  19. ^ Crook, Karen, "Helena Catherine Marfell (1896–1981)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 2 June 2024
  20. ^ Jeffery, Judith, "Mary Helen Withers (1907–1986)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 2 June 2024
  21. ^ Harfull, Liz (5 July 2022). The Women Who Changed Country Australia. Sydney: Murdoch Books. p. 140.
  22. ^ "FOR COUNTRY WOMEN". The Week. Vol. XCIV, no. 2, 434. Queensland, Australia. 18 August 1922. p. 6. Archived from the original on 14 September 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ This Wikipedia article incorporates text from Queensland Country Women’s Association turns 100! (29 March 2022) published by the State Library of Queensland under CC BY licence, accessed on 15 May 2022.
  24. ^ "QUEENSLAND COUNTRY WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION". The Telegraph. No. 15539. Queensland, Australia. 16 September 1922. p. 12. Archived from the original on 14 September 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ "Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame | Queensland Country Women's Association". leaders.slq.qld.gov.au. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  26. ^ "What does the CWA smell like? Iconic group's essence captured in a bottle for 95th anniversary". ABC News. 7 August 2017. Archived from the original on 7 August 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  27. ^ Hudson, Sarah (4 October 2017). "CWA: Queensland launches perfume "1922" to celebrate 95 years". The Weekly Times. Retrieved 9 July 2022.