Pioneer spirit lives on in QCWA
THE organisation that helped pioneer multi-cultural concerns in Australia, and which helped pioneer Australia itself, has been in crisis for some years.
But an influx of new younger members is helping turn the tide for the Queensland Country Women's Association and all the people it helps, in regional Queensland and around the world.
The Gympie branch itself came as close to folding as any other, until an injection of young members.
When disaster strikes around the world, often enough CWA money is in the first wave of assistance.
"We're certainly multi-cultural," says Gympie QCWA branch international officer, Elina Juusola.
And she would know.
"I'm from Finland," she says. "You must be feeling the heat," we venture.
"We came via Mt Isa," she explains.
One of the big things we do for members is provide information about other cultures, one nation at a time.
"Last year it was Greenland," not that far across the Arctic end of the Atlantic from her home country.
"This year it's Nepal."
"We also have school programs and we try to help people in trouble, through our networks with country women in many countries,, including Asia and the Americas."
Press secretary Charmaine Catlin says overseas aid is also a big contribution, but so is aid to charities and important organisations in Australia.
"We support the Red Cross, St John Ambulance and the Royal Flying Doctor Service as well as a lot of other charities," she said.
Veteran member Verna Hay says she has been a QCWA member for more years than she will actually admit to - "30 years in this branch," she says of the Gympie and South Burnett Division.
"Before that I was in Maranoa, which is the next region to the west. We are affiliated with the Associated Country Women of the World, which meets every three years in a different country. Each state has a representative, as do groups from Africa, New Guinea, Fiji, everywhere really. Australia, because it is involved in the Pacific, tends to concentrate on that region."
President Pat Catlin is also part of the new generation working hard to make the CWA relevant to women and communities everywhere. Even men are now welcome to be QCWA members, although officials admit it might not seem like much of a deal.
"It costs more, they can't vote and it enables them to be covered by our insurance when they do work for us," one committee member said.
Pat Catlin said she and other new members were glad to have saved the branch.
"They were having a meeting to shut down, and we turned up, paid our money and got to work."
Charmaine Catlin said she and other craft enthusiasts had wanted to meet to exchange ideas and work together, but venues were expensive and insurance and organisation were issues.
"Then we realised the QCWA did that sort of thing too, so we thought we'd get involved."