Backward Glance – QCWA, much more than tea and scones
  • Wednesday 06 February 2019

The Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) has been a prominent fixture in country towns, large and small, since 1922.

The QCWA has been there to help country women overcome the loneliness and worry of isolation and is now a society providing friendship and support to women across the world.

The Montville branch formed in 1924, Nambour and Maleny followed in 1929 and other branches formed during and after this period.

In the early 1920s, attending the meetings was often a hazardous task as the ladies had to walk, ride on horseback or drive in sulkies, buggies or spring carts.

They faced many obstacles with boggy roads, swollen creeks and gullies, but the meetings were an important part of their social wellbeing, so perseverance and resilience prevailed.

The provision of rest rooms was a main focus for the branches and these were often established near railway stations.

These rooms were invaluable to women and their families, enabling them to rest, feed children and meet other women.

The rest rooms were often made available to doctors, dentists and maternal and childcare nurses, providing much needed services.

Various fundraising activities were also undertaken.

The Woombye CWA held a dance in 1930 – it was reported that the hall was nicely decorated in blue and white streamers and asparagus fern.

The music was provided by the Hills Jazz band and the compulsory Monte Carlo was won by Mr J Francis and Miss Muller. Takings were seven pounds and two shillings.

The Nambour CWA, through their fundraising activities in supplying a luncheon for the opening of the Nambour Hospital, made a profit of fifteen pounds and two shillings which was presented to the hospital committee and earmarked towards an X-ray machine.

The women of the CWA, while believing deeply that their role in the family was vitally important, have always been initiators, fighters and lobbyists.

CWA branches provided a community voice on issues of the time.

In 1931, the Coolum Beach branch approached the Department of Posts and Telegraphs for a telephone silence cabinet to be built at the post office. 

In 1932, a letter was sent to Maroochy Shire Council requesting the road from Mount Coolum to the beach be repaired before the Christmas holidays.

A protest letter against the reduction of the sugar price was sent to QCWA headquarters in Brisbane.

Branches worked together. Coolum and Yandina combined to acquire a holiday hut so country people could have beach holidays. 

In July 1937 a holiday cottage was opened, rent was four shillings per weekend plus a one shilling sanitary fee or one shilling and six pence per day up to three days. 

This innovative practice has continued over the years and provided country folk the opportunity to enjoy holidays at CWA accommodations at the beach.

During the war years, 1939-1946, the CWA formed local Australian Comforts Fund committees.  

The sound of knitting needles and sewing machines rose as members made camouflage nets, underpants, handkerchiefs and knitted jumpers, scarves, socks, pullovers and balaclavas.

The smell of baking filled the air with many cakes being baked to send to “our boys”.

All local CWA branches donated money or sheepskins for the sheepskin vest production (sheep skin vests were for airmen and naval personnel.)

The 1945 QCWA report shows that 30,000 skins were acquired and more than 8,027 pounds were raised – from this, the NSW Handcraft Committee made 32,000 vests, 3,478 pairs of gloves, 2,706 pairs of mittens, 2,450 pairs of innersoles, 4,365 pairs of slippers, 1,148 pairs of wristlets and 640 pairs of children’s slippers.

Fundraising events increased – basket picnics, tennis afternoons, fancy dress nights, garden parties, dances and raffles were just a few.

Coolum branch raffle prizes were interesting. Permission was granted to raffle a dog at six pence per ticket and a gelding was also raffled. 

Other interesting raffle items were a goose, a pair of ducks, a turkey gobbler and a rooster.

CWA were rated one of the best voluntary war-time services in Australia.

In 1992, the CWA 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 the best traditions of the ANZAC.

CWA members, while continuing to run homes and properties, have made neighbourhoods into communities by providing social activities and educational, recreational and medical facilities. 

The last word goes to Mrs Marie Elliott, Member of the British Empire and State President 1984-1987, who has been a member of the Bli Bli branch for over 60 years. She says “members past and present were “unsung heroes” in the community.”

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

 

Image details 

Hero: Group of official guests admiring a display at the Nambour CWA Branch’s International Day, held in the QCWA Rest Rooms, Nambour, July 1971

Image 1: Annual meeting of the Woombye Branch of the QCWA, September 1967

Image 2: Glass House Mountains CWA ladies attending a CWA Conference at Brisbane City Hall, 1964

Image 3: Official opening of the CWA Rooms at Eumundi by H. F. Walker, M.L.A, on 26 December 1929. The Eumundi branch of the Queensland Country Women's Association was formed on 9 November 1927

Image 4: Presentation to the Caloundra Hospital by the Caloundra Branch of the QCWA, Caloundra, 29 May 1976

Image 5: QCWA rest-room, Kenilworth, August 1962. The building was officially opened by QCWA Divisional President, Mrs Charles in April 1955.   

Image 6: Choir of the Nambour Branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association, Nambour, 1967.