Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Proserpine Country Women’s Association (CWA) celebrates 100 years

In April 1923, a meeting was held in the Grand Theatre to form a branch of the Country Women’s Association in Proserpine with the goal of easing the isolation and loneliness of women and children who lived on farms. Only five ladies attended so a letter was written to request that a state representative visit to explain the objects of the association. A successful meeting was held in the Shire Hall in July with fifty-one ladies present to hear the State President, Mrs Fairfax.

And so, the Proserpine Branch was formed. Office bearers were President Mrs Blair (a position she held for thirteen years); Vice Presidents, Mrs Michael (wife of Anglican minister), and Mrs C Faust; and Miss Aimes (school teacher) as Secretary/Treasurer. Meetings were monthly - sometimes in private homes; sometimes in the rest room in the Diggers Hall where women could attend to their baby and rest in between shopping.

In 1923, World War 1 had not long ended. Wives of farmers often worked hard planting cane, milking cows, supervising correspondence schooling for their children. Roads were only dirt tracks and everyone came to town by horse and buggy. Life was difficult. The CWA worked to improve the conditions of women wherever they lived; whatever their interests. They also raised funds to assist others; made regular hospital visits, donated gifts of comfortable chairs, lounges, cushions to the maternity and women’s wards and did mending.

In 1928, branches were formed at Kelsey Creek and Banana Pocket. In 1931, a ‘younger set’ was formed with 18 members and operated for some years assisting the parent body with fundraising, at social functions and hospital mending.

In June 1935, the CWA rest rooms were opened free of debt and a clinic sister travelled from Bowen weekly to conduct a baby clinic which was welcomed by young mothers. The rest rooms were a great place to warm the baby’s bottle (in water boiled on a primus) to exchange ideas and to rest before the journey home.

During World War 2, many of the women made articles for the Comforts Fund. Mrs Blair knitted 28 pairs of socks, 67 pairs of mittens and gloves and 7 pairs of kneecaps for the war effort. At the Proserpine Show, the CWA often conducted the luncheon booth and had a tent for mothers and babies. For decades, they provided lunch for ex-servicemen and women after the Anzac Day march.

Bloomsbury Branch held its first AGM on September 27, 1952 with 26 members present. In 1956, Cannonvale/Airlie Beach was formed with 13 members. At first, meetings were held in the Cannonvale shelter shed then the Lutheran Church. In 1980, they built their own building next to the tennis courts.

In 1963, the Proserpine Rotary Club built and donated to the Proserpine branch a three-bedroom house at Airlie Beach to provide a venue for residents of the Bush Children’s Home, Townsville. However, it was decided that the building was not really suitable and it became a rental cottage for the branch. In July that year, the old Strathdickie School was bought for £60 and moved to Midge Point as a rental beach cottage for the Lethebrook branch.  

Today, there are many service clubs and cultural groups for women in our community but “hats off’ to that wonderful band of pioneer women who made life more comfortable in those early years. They have left behind a fine legacy of community service and friendship which the present members continue to uphold.

Congratulations to the Proserpine CWA on this milestone.

Story and photo courtesy Proserpine Historical Museum.

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