Recruitment time: How the CWA plans to attract new members
THEY are best known for their scones but Queensland's oldest and most trusted female-led organisation wants to grow a new crop of members.
Already showing early signs of a resurgence, younger women are proving Queensland Country Women's Association remains relevant in 2019.
Not only do they want to hone their scone-making and craft skills, but younger women are searching for ways they can build their confidence, engage with their communities and give back through charity work.
The Sarina branch will tonight hold its first twilight social craft event as part of its drive to attract a working woman membership.
"We decided to start twilight events to accommodate for working ladies and stay-at-home mums," Sarina branch president Sharon Price said.
"We've had significant interest in membership but the daytime meetings prevent some women from coming along and taking part in what we do."
Mrs Price said they had a lovely branch of women who did a bit of everything.
"One of our biggest projects we work on is creating hospital crisis bags for the Sarina hospital. We sew drawstring bags and fill them with the necessities one may need in hospital, things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, a wash cloth, shampoo.
"We also share a lot of our skills when it comes to handicraft and cooking. Many women have come to meetings with the goal of learning a new skill and we're all happy to teach and learn. It's a nice little group of ladies."
Robyn McFarlane is the current president of the Queensland Country Women's Association Mackay branch and has held several different roles at different levels throughout her 40-odd years with the CWA.
"There is a whole range of different things the QCWA is involved with. We're here to inspire women and build confidence. It is a membership driven association - so what each branch does is decided by the branch," Mrs McFarlane said.
The QCWA has been bringing women across Queensland together since 1922. For some, it's about meeting new people and forming friendships. Others are motivated by the opportunity to learn new skills, share their own skills and teach peers. Some enjoy fundraising, working on specific projects or being involved in advocacy research and presentations.
Mrs McFarlane said the Mackay branch had been raising money to buy water tanks for villages in the Solomon Islands.
"This is a very important fundraiser because rising sea levels have caused water sources there to be infiltrated by salt water," Mrs McFarlane said.
"In the past we have raised funds to buy chickens and goats for women in third-world countries to start businesses within their communities. These small businesses benefit the women we gift the livestock to, but it also increases the viability of the entire village."
Demonstrating real regeneration and grass-roots appeal, membership within the association has grown 10 per cent in past six months.
Once defunct branches in Yeppoon and Winton have reopened and new branches formed in Burpengary, Beech Mountain and Sandgate.
The Mackay branch has also had a slight rise in membership. Mrs McFarlane said the Mackay branch had welcomed three new members to the 30-strong group in the past couple of months.
"We hope to grow even further and it's something branches throughout Queensland are focussing on for the next 12 months," Mrs McFarlane said.
Far from the cooking and craft version of QCWA many people may have, QCWA state president, Mrs Christine King's vision was for the association to become the state's premier women's league.
"QCWA is a modern, relevant and inclusive body offering many ways for involvement. Together we improve the lives of people living in regional, rural and remote Queensland. This is achieved by advocating and providing opportunities for women around education, health, and community through every phase of a woman's life," Mrs King said.
"During my tenure, I would like QCWA to be the first option that comes to mind when women seek connection, friendship and a sense of meaningful contribution.
"It's very important to focus on what is uniquely significant to each locality. The flexibility of QCWA membership encourages women from varying locations, ages, occupations and life stages, to find a realistic and rewarding level of engagement."
Mrs McFarlane said she would love to see more young women join the Mackay Branch ranks.
"I see career women in town here walking to work and they're all potential members. We're currently looking for ways to attract these women. One thing we're considering is to hold twilight meetings or potentially an early morning meet up," Mrs McFarlane said.
"At the moment, most of our members are housewives or retired ladies and I think it would be great to get a group of working women to join and help us diversify what we do.
"I'd really like to start a 'twilight group'. We need about 20 women to start a secondary group at our branch, but it would be just great for a group of like-minded women to get together in the evenings.
"They could drive their own goals and schedule events. That is what I would like to see happen at our branch. It could be anything really, a chance to network or cook or learn to cook together, plan fundraisers for charities of their choice - the great thing about QCWA is that it can be what you want it to be.
While everyone may associate the QCWA with their scones, Mrs McFarlane said the association was so much more than their scones.
"There are a whole range of things we take part of. Coming up in June 2020 the women of the Port Moresby branch will host the South Pacific division of Associated Country Women of the World," Mrs McFarlane said.
"The Papua New Guinea ladies are so excited to host the conference for the first time. We're encouraging everyone from Australia and the islands to attend.
"They'll be able to share the issues important to them and it should be a real adventure."
Don't fret though, QCWA scones will not be resigned to the past.
"Everyone knows the CWA for their scones, and while we do so much more, we thought 'why not capitalise on something everyone knows us for?'Our scones have given us notoriety and have provided us with very successful avenue for fundraising," Mrs McFarlane said.
"On August 11, the QCWA will celebrate its birthday and the QCWA will hold a nationwide scone day to mark the event. The plans for the Mackay branch are still in the works but there will be an opportunity for the community to enjoy our trademark scones."
The Sarina QCWA twilight craft event runs from 5pm tonight at the Sarina QCWA hall at 2 Broad Street, Sarina.
The Pioneer division of QCWA comprises 11 branches from all over the Mackay region, with each looking for new members. For more information about meeting times and locations visit: qcwa.org.au/branch-locations/