Iconic women's group breaks new ground

07 Mar, 2018 04:00 AM
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 CWA State president Heather Allen (left) and treasurer Pam Beatson at the CWA rally outside State Parliament last month.
CWA State president Heather Allen (left) and treasurer Pam Beatson at the CWA rally outside State Parliament last month.

IT has been a year of firsts for the Country Women's Association of WA (CWA) and the trend continued last week with the official opening of the association's first online branch.

It follows the CWA's first rally in its 94-year history last month where about 400 people made their way to State Parliament to protest the State government's funding cuts to regional education.

The CWA Web Branch met for the first time last Tuesday evening, allowing women living in remote parts of the State and those unable to attend branch meetings the opportunity to become involved in the association.

State CWA president Heather Allen said the idea was raised last year and welcomed with open arms by the State Management Committee.

Ms Allen said the online branch was open to members from metropolitan, regional and remote areas, which the CWA hoped would foster stronger connections between women in all areas of the State.

"It's aimed at isolated women and we don't only mean those on stations and on farms because there are women in the cities who can't get to meetings or there's not a branch nearby them who still want to belong to CWA," Ms Allen said.

"We had an internet branch probably 20 or 25 years ago but it became too hard with connections on farms and things like that, so since then it's the first time it's happened."

Ms Allen said the online branch was part of the CWA's ever-evolving organisation, which had seen a major resurgence over the past few years.

There are 140 CWA branches across WA, with several new branches opening over the past two years, particularly in city suburbs.

"We just started a branch in Rockingham which started on the 24th of January, and we've got another group in Cockburn wanting to form a branch, so there's quite a lot of interest around the city at the moment," Ms Allen said.

"We've got interest in Karratha as well, the Goldfields branch was another one, and Exmouth was opened in August last year, so the association really is growing."

Ms Allen said there had been a spike in interest from younger, working women, which had led to the opening of several evening branches.

"There's a lot of women who work and want to be a part of an evening branch, because a lot of the main branches originally were all day branches," Ms Allen said.

"Dalwallinu was one that was a group of younger members that came into the branch and revitalised it because Dalwallinu was ready to close.

"It's led to a real resurgence, I guess it's communication, they all get on Facebook and things like that and I guess it's the way everyone communicates these days which makes it so much easier than churning out letters or trying to get someone in their community to do it."

On top of focusing on getting its new branches off the ground, Ms Allen said the CWA would continue to advocate for improved educational opportunities for children living in regional and remote parts of WA.

More than $40 million in education funding to regional parts of WA were announced late last year, and include the closure of the Moora Residential College (MRC) and Department of Education camp schools as well as the redirection of funds from the Agricultural Education Provisions Trust.

"Our main focus is keeping an eye on these education cuts," Ms Allen said.

"We'll continue to work closely with Isolated Children's Parents' Association, WAFarmers and other groups."

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