Country Women's Association

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Country Women’s Association of Australia
CWA building at Bungendore, New South Wales
AbbreviationCWA; or CWAA
FormationAugust 1922; 98 years ago (1922-08)[1]
FounderRuth Fairfax OBE[1]
Founded atAlbert Hall, Brisbane[1]
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.
National President
Noela MacLeod
Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, 1928
CWA group meeting in Emerald, 1939
Cootamundra Albert Park CWA Monument

The Country Women's Association of Australia (CWA or CWAA) is the largest women's organisation in Australia. It has 44,000 members across 1855 branches. Its aims are to improve the conditions for country women and children and to try to make life better for women and their families, especially those women living in rural and remote Australia. The organisation is self-funded, nonpartisan and nonsectarian.


The Country Women's Association was formed in 1922, initially with chapters in both New South Wales and Queensland. 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.[2] By 1936 there was a branch in each of the States and territories of Australia. The formation of a federal body was discussed in 1943 and was agreed in 1945 by a meeting of all state presidents. The First Annual Conference of the C.W.A. of Australia was held in Adelaide in 1946. In 1947 delegates were appointed to go to the Associated Country Women of the World Conference in Amsterdam.

During the depression years, the CWA helped those in need with food and clothing parcels. During World War II, the CWA provided meals for the troops at Quorn, South Australia and Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, their efforts being rated one of the best voluntary war time services in Australia. CWA members also made camouflage nets and knitted balaclavas and socks for the troops. 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.

Education, health and wellbeing[edit]

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.[3] 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[edit]

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.[4]

Queensland Chapter (QCWA)[edit]

The Queensland Chapter was formed on 11 August 1922 at Albert Hall, Brisbane. Ruth Beatrice Fairfax was elected the first President.[5]

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.[6]

The Queensland chapter was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in 2013.[7]

In 2017 the QWCA created its own perfume, '1922', to mark its 95th anniversary. It will be 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.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Martha, Rutledge (1981). "Fairfax, Ruth Beatrice (1878–1948)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 25 March 2016 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. ^ Parker, Heather The First Fifty Years South Australian Country Women's Association, Adelaide 1979 ISBN 0-9595800-0-X
  3. ^ "Australian Films, Australian Movies, Agricultural References, Bush Poetry, Biographies, Childrens Books, Country Music - Fiona Lake". Archived from the original on 14 October 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "FOR COUNTRY WOMEN". The Week. XCIV (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.
  6. ^ "QUEENSLAND COUNTRY WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION". The Telegraph (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.
  7. ^ "Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame | Queensland Country Women's Association". Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  8. ^ "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.

External links[edit]