HAPPY DAYS: Lowood CWA 90th birthday celebrations held in Lowood on Tuesday. Lois Spresser and Val Shelton join guests including local members of parliament and councillors.
HAPPY DAYS: Lowood CWA 90th birthday celebrations held in Lowood on Tuesday. Lois Spresser and Val Shelton join guests including local members of parliament and councillors. Rob Williams

PHOTOS: Country Women's Association more than tea and cake

THEY can make a prize-winning scone, love a natter over a cup of tea and can host a bake sale like seasoned professionals but the eight ladies behind the Lowood Country Women's Association have a whole lot more than morning tea at the heart of their work.

The ladies are celebrating 90 years in the community this week as close to a century of commitment has seen plenty of scones but also plenty of heart-warming cases of generosity.

Val Shelton has been part of the association for close to five of the nine decades and can remember when the friendly club of eight was once a bustling group of 20 ladies.

It was 1969 when Mrs Shelton joined the Lowood CWA and 48 years later, she still values the group as much as she did on the day she joined.

"I had just come to Lowood to live and a woman I used to work with was having a party and one of them happened to be the treasurer of the CWA and that was that," she said.

"For so long the CWA has been a silent achiever working for people behind the scenes, for people in need after fire, flood, drought. There is always money or goods being given out. These days its domestic violence.

"It's about the friendship and how you build up your own self esteem. You go along to a group of ladies who are shy and quiet and won't say boo and after a few meetings you start to join in the conversation and gain your own confidence. You sit over a cup of tea and shared your highs and lows and sometimes that's just want some of the women need, someone they know they can talk to."

Projects like care bags for domestic violence victims, toiletries for hospital patients, hundreds of tiny pocket teddies for regional flood victim children and cooking classes for high school students mean the group has made a difference in more people's lives than a cup of tea ever could.

"The Public Rural Crisis Fund has helped people out in Western Queensland through this last lot of drought and devastation. Some of the ladies out West didn't have enough money to pay for their memberships for the year," Mrs Shelton said.

"Some of the branches helped to pay their membership so they could keep doing the work out there as well.

"The students can cook a meal for the whole family for $5, they learn to cook and then can take that home at night. You give a boy a potato and a potato peeler and ask him to peel it and he doesn't know how so that helps them.

"The pocket teddies are a duplicates of teddies that the soldiers had in the first world war in their pockets. The children could put them on their pencil cases, school bags, it's just something they had to cuddle and talk to."

For Mrs Shelton and the members, the 90th anniversary is a sign the group is an integral pillar of countless women's lives.

"Today we just buy cooked chooks but in days gone by you had to go out to the farm, kill and clean the chooks and then go back and cook them to cater. Smoked hams had to be boiled before you had a ham so you read things like that and think yes, we have it easy," she said.

Her sister-in-law Lois Spresser is one of the party of eight, having joined in the footsteps of her CWA member mother.

"It's very important for the community and the hall is useful for all sorts of things like cent sales," Mrs Spresser said.


Country women to welcome country men

THEY can set up a bake sale but Country Women's Association male members won't be allowed to vote after a motion was passed to allow them to join the iconic group.

A revolutionary vote at the CWA conference last year changed the future of the group across the state as members voted to allow men to join - breaking a 94-year history.

It will still be called CWA, but the move does mean small regional groups like Lowood will have the member support to live for another 90 years.

Lowood CWA member Val Shelton said the eight members' husbands already played an integral role in the group.

"Let's face it, whether they join as a member of not, they have been silent members from the year dot because behind every good woman there's a good man," she said.

"They are only going to be support members, they will have no voting right."

At the organisation's state conference in Gladstone last year, members voted 123-88 to allow men over 18 to join as Friends of the CWA.

At the time, QCWA state president Robyn McFarlane made it clear the decision would not change the organisation's focus on women.

"Men won't be attending meetings, they won't be having a vote, they will just be supporting the association at this point," Ms McFarlane said.


History of Lowood CWA

CLOSE to a century since the first meeting, The Lowood Queensland Country Womens Association branch has shared in plenty of milestones, acts of community spirit and countless morning teas.

It opened on July 8, 1927 and while 20 ladies joined that day, the group grew to 34 members by March 1928.

In 1930 a lease was signed on a small parcel of land at Lowood for two pounds and two shillings per year until it was bought outright in 1988.

It was the site the hall would later be built on. It was destroyed in a fire in December 1933.

In 1951 the Esk Cocuncil donated 25 pounds to re-build the hall and it was eventuality built for 1685 pounds in time for the first hall meeting in 1953.

It has been home to countless celebrations since, only interrupted when the fibro roof was damaged in a hail storm in 1991.

Since its inception in 1922, the state-wide organisation has been open to women only, and now has more than 3,500 members across the state - eight of which call the Lowood branch home.

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