Near-century for Holbrook CWA

HISTORY: CWA Holbrook president Janet Kemp and secretary Freda Turner marked the branch's 90th birthday, with NSW president Stephanie Stanhope. Picture: MARK JESSER
HISTORY: CWA Holbrook president Janet Kemp and secretary Freda Turner marked the branch's 90th birthday, with NSW president Stephanie Stanhope. Picture: MARK JESSER

Exquisite cursive details the meeting that occurred 90 years ago yesterday, to form the Country Women's Association Holbrook branch.

For the 50 people gathered at an anniversary celebration, it was clear that handwriting is the least of what has changed since 1929.

At the original meeting, the mother of current branch president Janet Kemp was recognised as "Mrs John Ross Junior"; women were called by their husband's name.

"I attended my first meeting as a baby," she said.

"[Being part of the branch] is just like coming home again.

"My other two sisters were also very involved.

"Holbrook is one of the oldest branches in the group."

Mrs Kemp soon turns 88 and remains an active CWA member, and secretary Freda Turner said their president was an expert in protocol.

"It is such a grassroots organisation and every woman has a different way of running things," she said.

"Janet is well versed, so if we are in doubt, we ask Janet."

Mrs Turner has compiled pieces of history for the 90th birthday of the Holbrook branch, which came into being only seven years after the Country Women's Association was formed.

On June 25, 1930, a Blue and Gold Ball raised 48 pounds, and two years later a depot was collecting clothing for the "travelling and local poor and needy".

In 1935, the CWA rooms and library were destroyed by fire, and the 28-member Riverina Group was split, leading to the formation of the Murray Group.

Mrs Turner said CWA baby health centres were important facilities.

"Many CWA projects have become the fabric of our society," she said.

"My mother has a story from Lake Cargelligo; when they went to town the only toilet was in the hotel.

"Nice ladies and their children didn't go into the hotel, so the CWA lobbied for restrooms in town.

"During Depression, war and droughts, one recognised off-farm activity for women was CWA, and it was often the only time they saw other women.

"It was very important to their mental health.

"And now we try to fit it into our busy schedules."

Proving the CWA is about much more than tea and scones, an issue currently on their books is the limited regional resources for autopsies.

"It is still a lobby group and we don't have to make placards, we have the ear of every level of government," Mrs Turner said.

The celebration was marked with a lunch at the home of Jenny and John Gillespie.

Guests included Greater Hume mayor Heather Wilton, CWA NSW state president Stephanie Stanhope and CWA Murray Group president Lyn Buck.

This story Near-century for Holbrook CWA first appeared on Eastern Riverina Chronicle.