MORNING TEA: Thangool CWA vice-president Caroline Leighton with her granddaughter Felicity Newton.
MORNING TEA: Thangool CWA vice-president Caroline Leighton with her granddaughter Felicity Newton. Contributed

CWA chasing CQ members

WHILE it seems some remote and rural Country Women's Association groups are struggling to survive and attract new members, there has been a reported 10per cent rise in CWA memberships across Queensland in the past six months.

New branches have opened at Yeppoon and Winton, as well as at Burpengary, Beech Mountain and Sandgate.

In some Central Queensland branches, however, membership has slowed.

Thangool's CWA president Dorothy Rideout said memberships had stalled in her Central Queensland branch.

Mrs Rideout - who is currently organising the group's Biggest Morning Tea fundraiser for next week - said she would like to see more members and an increase in younger members.

It's a goal CWA state president Christine King said the whole organisation was striving for and already achieving in some areas.

"I'm not feeling the rise in numbers here. It's going along OK but here in our own area we are getting light on for members,” MrsRideout said.

"And we're all getting to the age where it's a little bit much for us at times.”

She said she understood younger women often had commitments with work, children and extra- curricular activities, but "there just doesn't seem to be the interest in CWA that there used to be”.

The Thangool branch - one of the state's older branches - has seven members, although they've had up to 12.

"It's never been a big branch but we turn 90 in October and we are proud of that. I've been a member since 1965.”

Mrs Rideout said the branch had a history of helping people in "hard times”, especially during the early 1980s when the group helped people pay bills and buy groceries, and this was a tradition they had continued through the current Rural Crisis Fund.

"We donate to our local community as much as we can and our members help out at different functions, supply sandwiches on Anzac Day and help at the Christmas market day, as well as having our own stall.”

The Goovigen CWA closed in 2017 and Biloela and Moura don't have CWA groups, however state president Mrs King said other branches had reopened and many were embracing a new two-hour meeting format to fit in with the busy lives of potential members.

"The members are recognising we need to have alternative meeting times. They can give that two hours, which is our new format - it's an hour's meeting at the most and then a guest speaker or cups or tea.”

She said working women were discovering that becoming a member of the group could create new friendships as well as new skill sets, while also allowing them to contribute to their local communities or fundraising missions.

"Working women are loving getting to learn to knit and crochet, so we're suddenly back in vogue - how good is that. And it's relaxing for them after their busy jobs,” Mrs King said.

"We've done the full circle. Everyone now wants home cooking and to learn to bake. It's the slightly 'slower' movement and the CWA is very well centred for that to happen.”

Mrs King said many young people were also interested in advocacy for issues that mattered to them and the CWA was joining forces with a host of groups - including the Australian College of Midwives - and speaking out on certain topics.

"All groups that affect young women, we're joining with them and we want to show young women that we understand where they're sitting and we understand their issues.”

She said they had spoken out about the closure of agriculture colleges and were keen for young women to join their local groups and "have a voice”.

"We're really relevant at the moment. I would really hope that people who have lived in our rural communities would consider joining and bringing their knowledge to the group.

"There are women out there who have probably not thought the CWA needs them, but we're issuing the invitation to them.

"The small areas do need more members, and it's women supporting women, which is just such a fantastic thing.”

Mrs King's vision is for the association to become Queensland's premier women's league. The CWA currently has 3800 members across 240 locations statewide and the QCWA is the state's most extensive and largest women's group.

"QCWA is a modern, relevant and inclusive body offering many ways for involvement. Together we improve the lives of people living in regional, rural and remote Queensland. This is achieved by advocating and providing opportunities for women around education, health and community through every phase of a woman's life.”

Mrs Rideout said the Thangool CWA had been hosting the Biggest Morning Tea in support of the Cancer Council for the past 10 years and this year's event was set to be held on June 19 from 9.30am at the Thangool Rec Reserve.

She said the annual event usually attracted about 50people and there was no need to book.

All funds raised from the raffle and auctions are donated directly to the charity

"Quite a few CWA members and the public have been affected by this disease and it's just one of the things we can help out,” Mrs Rideout said.

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