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    Country Women's Association, 3 Lansell Road, Toorak, Vic.

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The Country Women's Association of Victoria Inc. (1928 - )

Community organisation


The Country Women's Association of Victoria was founded in 1928. It is a non-sectarian, non-party-political, non-profit lobby group working predominantly in the interests of women and children in rural areas. It's first president (1928-1932) was Lady Mitchell.
The Association was formed partly in response to the formation of similar groups in other states. A major objective since its foundation was to 'arrest the [population] drift from rural areas'-a problem which persists today. Its major activities have revolved around the provision of services to its members and the improvement of amenities in rural areas.


The formation of the Victorian Association was prompted by a meeting organised by Lady Somers (wife of the then state governor) in March 1928. It was quickly strengthened by proliferation of local branches and the decision of the seven Victorian Women's Institutes (the first of which had been formed in 1926) to join the new Association. By 1929 it boasted twenty branches with 1700 members.

Since its foundation the Association has been involved in an enormous range of activities. The early influence of the Women's Institutes ensured a strong emphasis on Homecrafts and Home Industries within the Victorian Association-a Committee was formed devoted to arranging classes and demonstrations in these areas. In 1932 the Committee established a scholarship to enable a country student to attend the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy. In 1935 over 900 members from 71 branches sent 3000 entries to the its Handicraft Exhibition. During the WWII the Committee coordinated much of the Association's war work and in the 1950s they organised craft classes for women prisoners.

One early initiative was the formation of 'Younger Sets' - for girls and young women. By 1932 there were 28 of these groups-increasing to 97 by 1949. They engaged in fund raising and community worked as well as holding crafts classes and lectures on numerous topics including home economics, travel and literature. Other early activities included the provision of 'rest rooms' in regional centres (to provide facilities for visiting farm women) and the purchase of a holiday home at Black Rock (which extended over the years into a large complex)-to provide members with affordable holiday accommodation. They also helped establish a bush 'Dental van' in the 1930s, ran a 'Home Help Scheme' from 1940-70 and established numerous welfare, relief and scholarship funds. During WWII the Association devoted much of its energy to assisting with the war effort. They made over 150,000 camouflage nets, as well as sheepskin vests for flight crews, numerous other woollen garments. They also established a 'Comforts Fund' for soldiers and sent clothing and bedding to women and children in London.

In 1929, the Country Women's Association of Victoria was one of the 23 rural women's organisation which attended a meeting in London, organised by the Marchioness of Aberdeen, to discuss the formation of an international rural women's association. The meeting led to the formation of the Associated Country Women of the World in 1932. From 1945 it became affiliated with the newly formed Country Women's Association of Australia.

As of 1978, the organisation's primary aim was 'By community service to improve conditions in the country more especially as they affect the welfare of women and children.'

Over the years the Association's branches have produced numerous cookery and handicraft books as well as local histories.

In 2004, the Association's website described its purpose and activities thus:
'The Country Women's Association of Victoria Inc. is an organisation based on friendship and self-development opportunities for women of all races, religions or political beliefs. It is an organisation where women from rural and urban areas can meet as one, as the Women of the Country.
The CWA of Victoria is unique in that it does not have charitable status, is not totally a service club, nor a philanthropic organisation. It supports numerous charitable causes, particularly as they concern women, children and families.
The CWA of Victoria is involved with Government departments in several programs including Wise Women Working and Diversity Victoria, which aim to bring together different cultures for a better understanding across racial borders. It also has input through the Victorian Women's Summit conferences which reflect women's opinions.

The Social Issues Committee's role is to research issues which effect women and children in our community, to lobby State and Commonwealth Governments to change things for the betterment of women and to keep members informed through "The Country Woman" magazine.' (Issues it has considered include: Problem Gambling, Farm safety, Workcare, Aged Care, Medical indemnity crisis, Shortage of obstetric specialists in rural areas, Funding for Breast Care Nurses, Suicide, Domestic violence, Privacy Laws, Child Employment). It makes submissions on behalf of Members to Government, and recently conducted a survey of issues to concern to Branches across the State.

'The CWA of Victoria is undertaking an adventurous program of establishing an Internet Branch to give women the opportunity to communicate with like-minded persons.
Crafts are taught and encouraged at Branch, Group and State levels and choral and drama groups thrive at some Branches.
A Statewide public speaking competition culminates with the final at the State Conference each year.
A Scholarship Fund has been set up to assist with tertiary education for Member's children. Scholarships for non-members are also available.
The Welfare and Emergency funds are used to help people in with household and personal items in time of disaster.
A medical research program is the recipient of the Thanksgiving Fund each year.
Many weary Royal Agricultural Show patrons enjoy the CWA hospitality in the cafeteria at the Royal Melbourne Show.'

They continue to hold regular craft schools.

Sources used to compile this entry: Country Women's Association of Victoria, Years of adventure, 1928-1978 : fifty years of service by the Country Women's Association of Victoria, Toorak, Vic., 1978, 76 pp;

Related entries

Archival resources

Australian Historic Records Register

  • Country Women's Association of Victoria Inc., 1928 - 1987, 267; The Country Women's Association of Victoria Inc. (1928 - ); Australian Historic Records Register. Details
  • Country Women's Association, Merbein Branch, 1925 - 1988, 270; Australian Historic Records Register. Details
  • Country Women's Association, Robinvale branch, 1945 - 1977, 109; Australian Historic Records Register. Details

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Folkloric recording: Mildred Mattinson speaks about her life in the Ecklin area in 1930s, 1940s and 1950s: Interviewer: Helen O'Shea]., ORAL TRC 2439/60; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
  • Folkloric recording: Phyllis Oldfield speaks about living in the Ecklin district since 1933: Interviewer: Helen O'Shea, ORAL TRC 2439/61; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Taggerty Papers, 1947, MS 12622; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

Digital resources

Country Women's Association, 3 Lansell Road, Toorak, Vic.


Jane Carey and Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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