The Country Women’s Association in Tasmania’s first meeting was held in Launceston in 1936. 80 women attended the inaugural meeting, which was an illustrious event, presided over by Lady Clark (wife of His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania) and Launceston’s Mayoress, Mrs E.E. Von Bibra. Membership grew to 4,000 in the 1940s, with 71 branches around Tasmania.
The pioneer’s clear vision
At the time of the foundation of CWA in Tasmania, some things were vastly different from today, others remain much the same. Back then, once married, women were no longer in the paid work force, and domestic duties filled a large part of their days. Rural women, as now, often lived in isolation with limited access to transport. The advent of the Branches of the CWA provided a meeting place for social activities and a forum for debate to improve the quality of life for women and their families.
The Association’s pioneer leaders, mostly in their 30-40’s had a clear vision when they set down the foundations of the Association. They tackled the big issues of the day and raised funds to build and purchase the Child Health Centres, the Meeting Rooms, Halls, Shops and the Holiday Homes, many of which we still own.
A strong voice for the community
United and emboldened with the courage of their convictions, CWA members confronted government with the needs of the community. They advocated for those living in regional areas and in isolation. Health issues, employment and rural depression were all at the forefront of their thinking. Their impact was massive, with such initiatives as compulsory seatbelts a result of CWA lobbying.
The War Years
The war years 1939-45 brought about many changes in the activities and work done by the members of the CWA. The raised thousands of pounds for patriotic funds, which included Australian Comforts Funds, Red Cross, Prisoner of War, Air Raid Relief for Britain and Chinese Relief. 27,000 camouflage nets were made for defence purposes by CWA members who converged in groups of 80 at City Hall in Hobart. These years were busy and challenging for CWA members, whose community activities needed to be juggled with family and maintaining home and farm in the absence of the menfolk. Thousands of care packages were sent to troops and displaced families overseas during the war period.
After the war, CWA members welcomed “New Australians” and helped them to settle in. They also sent help to war-torn countries and continue to do so.
Since the early days, there have been many events and activities to be proud of. Here are just a few:
- 1940, CWA purchased an ambulance for the 2nd AIF
- 1949 The Hawley Holiday Home was purchased
- 1950 The Highcroft Stormlea Hall was purchased
- 1951 the CWA purchased the Elizabeth St shop (it cost 7,500 pounds)
- 1957 The State Headquarters in Hobart was purchased (it cost 7,500 pounds too)
- 1965 The Burnie Hall purchase was completed
- 1967, they donated $20,000 for the Tasmanian Fire Relief and the Asthma Foundation
- 1979, funded research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- 1980, Funded a hydrotherapy pool on the Channel for children with disabilities
- 1981, Bushfire Relief in Zeehan
Other areas of assistance and participation:
- Rhododendrons, trees and roses planted in public spaces
- Meals on Wheels
- Furnishing halls, holiday homes and rest rooms
- State Endowment Fund
- State Emergency Fund
- Hospital Fetes
- Flower shows
- Agricultural Shows
- Elderly Citizen Homes
- Hospital visiting
- State Emergency Services
- Australia Day
- ANZAC Day
- Observation of CWA Sunday
This legacy lives on in the CWA today. We invite you to join us to support the objectives of the Association in a way that is relevant to our Tasmanian community today and into future.