Thu, 3 May, 2018
Should the Country Women’s Association join the gender politics debate?
The Country Women’s Association is renowned in our nation for promoting family values and traditional recipes for almost 100 years.
But several motions put forward at the organisation’s recent annual state conference – including a push to make gender-neutral uniforms “mandatory” in public school across NSW – have divided members and the public.
Sydney City Branch president Elizabeth Nash introduced a proposal that states: “The policy of CWA of NSW shall be to advocate for the NSW government to amend its School Uniform Policy so that gender-neutral uniforms are mandatory for all public schools.”
“The NSW government leaves the school community to decide on its uniforms. This has resulted in an inconsistent approach in uniform policy across NSW,” Sydney members wrote.
However, the proposal was defeated with the final tally showing 285 votes against and 192 votes in favour.
Another CWA motion advocates decriminalising sections of the NSW Crimes Act concerning administering or supplying drugs to have an abortion, and a separate motion advocates for “protection against violence and assaults for all health employees”.
NSW CEO Danica Leys said the CWA was not the “conservative” organisation it was often mistaken for.
“One of the interesting things about CWA is it’s often thought about as being perhaps quite an old-fashioned, conservative organisation but the reality is far from that,” she said.
However, the CWA’s recent forays into politically-charged issues has copped criticism with a The Daily Telegraph opinion piece asking: Why is the CWA joining the gender politics crusade?
Louise Roberts writes in her piece: “Are we now at the level where there is not a single space ‘safe’ from gender debate?”
She adds: “It’s outrageous to assume the CWA has a culture and an image that needs changing.
Yes, the CWA will lobby for women and families and for the bush. They’ll also work quietly in the background, thanks all the same, and get on with helping whoever needs them.
It’s like a thousand mums all with your best interests at heart.”
She concludes: “Why do people feel the need to ‘fix’ this organisation like this? Why is ‘conservative’ a dirty word? It takes all kinds in this world. The CWA might not be a bunch of bra burners but that doesn’t mean they’re not a collective group of strong women who are making a difference.”