Australia Country Women's Association thriving in Tasmania, with technology helping to spread the word

03:07  20 september  2020
03:07  20 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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When the Country Women ' s Association get together and find an issue that they believe is important, "everybody listens to us", says Giselle Burningham — and The CWA is setting up a virtual branch in Tasmania for people who cannot attend meetings in person. In Cygnet, an hour's drive south-west of

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

a person smiling for the camera: CWA Cygnet branch president Liz Smith. (ABC News: Selina Ross) © Provided by ABC Health CWA Cygnet branch president Liz Smith. (ABC News: Selina Ross)

The Country Women's Association has seen Australia go through a lot war, drought and bushfires and now the coronavirus pandemic.

In Cygnet, an hour's drive south-west of Hobart, the local CWA branch has grown as the COVID-19 outbreak has gone on, with about half a dozen new members joining the ranks.

Branch president Liz Smith said the CWA provided a sense of connection.

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"I think that people realised that there were a lot of people in the community who were very isolated and who needed to make connections and the CWA was one avenue to do that," she said.

"They're often people who are lonely, need company, looking for some way in which they can contribute to the community."

On a Thursday morning, the Cygnet CWA shop bustles as tradies, families and locals drop in to pick up a freshly baked cake or pastry.

"The regulars come every week and they know what they want so sometimes there's a bit of a race for them to get what they want before someone else has got it," Ms Smith said.

"Some of our members are incredible cooks and they do beautiful sewing and knitting and so on.

"I think they really enjoy that having an outlet for their cooking and it's certainly a benefit to the community and to the CWA."

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State treasurer Lesley Young said the Lindisfarne branch had also grown.

"The people at Lindisfarne have really got the CWA shop over there going strong and are now starting to look at the other aspects of CWA," she said.

"CWA has got a name out there and people are interested in knowing what was going on and they saw it as an opportunity."

Tasmania to have a virtual branch

Giselle Burningham has lived all over the country, moving where her husband's airforce job took them.

"I found CWA was a constant wherever I lived in Australia," she said.

She moved from Canberra to Greens Beach on Tasmania's north coast in March, just before the pandemic hit the state.

"So I reached out to the CWA in Tasmania to see what was happening and how I could meet other fellow members," she said.

As a wheelchair user, Ms Burningham was unable to access local CWA branches.

She had the idea to set up a virtual branch to connect people who could not meet in person.

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"Tasmania's a beautiful place but it's also a very old place with a lot of old buildings that are not designed for wheelchairs, so that was an issue," she said.

"But I also found after talking to people around Tasmania, it's not just an access issue about physically getting in.

"There's a lot of people who are really remote, the west coast, the north coast, etcetera, who are just too far away from a CWA branch."

"With the help of the Tasmanian CWA we have got things rolling."

Monthly meetings will run over an online video conference platform and there will also be a more casual fortnightly catch up.

"Since COVID-19 people are a lot more open about using online chats and forums, I've definitely noticed the improvement since I've been here," she said.

"Just on the feedback I've already had online I think it's going to be extremely successful."

Ms Burningham said the CWA remained very active in the community.

"CWA is not just a sit and chat group," she said.

"When CWA women get together and find an issue that they believe is important, everybody listens to us.

"So we have some clout and it's good to be in that position."

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