31Oct 2022

100 Years of CWA

The Country Women's Association or CWA as we all know it, has been doing the most amazing work in Australia for 100 years. 

I don't think many people truly know what these women have achieved over the years, and still continue to do. The list is honestly too long to even do it justice by trying to include it. Look it up. 

The next time there is a disaster and you want to donate to a worthy organisation that doesn't take a cut or charge for administering and distributing funds, then please give to a CWA. 


Like many kids in the bush, I grew up playing on the floor and in the yard of the local CWA Hall. So I couldn't let this milestone slip by without writing a poem in my feeble attempt to honour them. 



From The Floorboards Up

 We trundled into town for sixty miles or more, and from the back seat of the car I was placed upon the floor.

As I gazed up from the floorboards in my bassinet of wicker, I watched them come together in thin and in thicker.

They would gather in the local hall you know the sort I mean, weatherboard and galvo roof with a picture of the Queen.

Quietly in our country town and every far-flung place, they rallied with a purpose and a smile upon their face.

A much-loved institution which boldly forged a track, a community of women living in the harsh outback.


When I cried, they held me, in arms of warmth and hope, they bathed my wounds with Dettol and bars of Sunlight soap,

From my feet they pulled the prickles and then would kiss it better, and as I grew they showed me how, to write a formal letter.

They taught me how to hem a dress, to cross-stitch a tablecloth, how to make a choccy fudge, and for the sick a healing broth.

I learnt to knit and crochet and arrange a vase of flowers, all the while I was unaware of their gentle powers.

Together they would share, the burdens found in life, and help a needy a stranger who found themselves in strife.


From a simple friendship circle, they’ve become a trusted force, through droughts and floods and bushfires, guiding governments on a course.

When disaster strikes our nation, they are there to help and serve, never asking for acknowledgement or the praise that they deserve.

They quietly volunteer their time for the good of this great nation, from every humble timber hall, in each remote location.

They pledge to Honour God and loyalty to the throne; they have served their country fiercely before internet or phone.

Through and for and by, country women they said, and they meant it all in earnest as they quietly baked the bread.


They wiped their hands on aprons to take my crying child, a soft shoulder they have given, and assurance they have smiled.

Young mothers have sought comfort to know they aren’t alone, safe haven has been offered when things got rough at home.

They took in the wounded soldier and gave comfort to his kin, they saw no wealth or status, nor colour of the skin.

They raised funds to help the needy and took smokos to the fire, a commitment to community, their one and true desire.

The child that needed medicine found only in the city, they gave with hearts and hands but never showing pity.


The cake stalls which they ran to fund an education, for so many rural kids from all parts of the nation.

With hostels, houses, units all spread across the state, where all expectant mothers, can stay and safely wait.

I have learnt so many lessons from these women of the bush, how to care and nurture but be steadfast in your push.

Resilience and patience and advice to make you think, it’s not all about the scones or patty cakes so pink.

As the photo on their walls will now become the King, they carry on with strength and grit, despite what life may bring.


I drive many miles on highways with their achievements in full view, seat belts, fog lines, RBT, just to name a few.

And as my 2-way crackles with loud truckies full of gruff, they talk about the fog line, it’s fairly standard stuff.

I wonder if they really know who fought that battle strong? To reduce the rural road toll, on our highways ever long.

They pushed for a simple white line to guide a driver’s hand, their legacy lies on the tar, stretched right across this land.

If you motor through a rural town and pass their modest hall, these are the ones on whom, a nation comes to call.


But if you only think, that they’re just scones and tea, then you will never truly know what they mean to me.

Their simple blue white logo borne on a country hall, will tell you in this town, they welcome one and all.

For 100 years no less, they have stood firm in their plight, never caving to a challenge, they’re up for any fight.

So when you eat their cakes and delight in their preserves, know that many reap reward from these unfailing bush reserves.

No matter if you serve your tea in a pannikin or cup, I only pray you see my view, from the floorboards up.


©Mary O’Brien

October 2022

Written for 100 years of CWA