CWA: Pearls and wisdom

By Bridget Brennan 23 September 2009
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The Country Women’s Association continues to play a valuable community role across Australia.

There’s a resurgence underway in Kununurra, in the Kimberley, West Australia. It’s become the centre of one of the newest branches of the Country Women’s Association (CWA).

At 24, branch president Suzi Silvester is not your average CWA matriarch, nor are her fellow members, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who admit they couldn’t whip up a sponge to save themselves. “We’re probably not the typical CWA, where it’s a lot about baking, because most of us don’t cook,” says Suzi, who works at the local steel-fabrication shop. They hope to hold cooking-skills training days for the women – but they’re also planning car-maintenance and welding workshops.

Plentiful waterfalls fuelled by wet-season rains and cool gorges lure visitors to the area year-round, but Kununurra can be a tough place to form lasting friendships. It has a transient population that breezes in to work in agriculture, mining and the booming tourism industry. Some people stay, but in many cases, after a few years, they’re off again. “Kununurra is remote but it’s also a young community,” Suzi says. “So you do need people to spend time with because you can’t just jump in the car and drive to another town.”

When Suzi and her husband Woody, a helicopter pilot, moved to Kununurra so Woody could start a new job, they immediately fell in love with the town, but after four years “recognising people’s faces, but not knowing their names”, Suzi and some girlfriends decided to start a CWA branch so they could have regular meetings and give nearby station workers a chance to mix with other women.

For the full article grab Issue 96 of Australian Geographic, on sale now.