By Em Hazeldean
The Country Women’s Association is bucking the downward trend of volunteering in Australia, with a continued increase in its membership.
Their catchphrase, which is used on social media, “not just tea and scones” is helping them to reach younger generations.
Six new branches have opened in 2018, with virtual branches being opened to cater for women who work and are unable to attend meetings.
The Rockingham branch of the CWA opened in January this year and already has 51 members, with the majority in the 30-39 age bracket.
Rockingham CWA branch president Deirdre Atkinson-Byrne says they actively advertise inclusivity.
“We are open to all women, even anyone who identifies as a woman and we have women of all backgrounds and religions,” she says.
The branch recently hosted its first public event, an afternoon tea that raised over $2800 for Village Women, a refuge for homeless, pregnant women.
The CWA is the only not for profit organisation run by women for women, and is increasingly being known for its advocacy of social change.
“Although we say we’re not just tea and scones, we do feel a lot can be achieved over tea and scones,” says Marguerite Zeilinger, the association’s WA Communications Officer.
“What better way to share ideas than over a nice cuppa,” she says.
State president Heather Allen says the media coverage of the rally against education cuts earlier this year, and the funds the CWA is distributing to drought-stricken farmers has brought the association a lot of attention.
“We’re just doing what we’ve always done, it’s just taken all this media coverage to get people to realise it,” says Ms Allen.
A report published by Volunteering Australia shows that 93% of volunteers saw positive changes in their lives as a result of their volunteering efforts, and Ms Allen attributes that to a strong sense of community,
“You’re just able to discuss your problems, you’re in amongst a community, even on Facebook, bless its heart and soul, we’re able to help people,” she says.