COUNTRY BUSINESS: Judy Bilbrough is starting her second term as president of our region’s largest QCWA branch, Condamine Valley.
COUNTRY BUSINESS: Judy Bilbrough is starting her second term as president of our region’s largest QCWA branch, Condamine Valley. Candy Braithwaite

CWA made Judy stand out

SHE has never been the sort of person to seek the limelight, yet there is no disputing Judy Bilbrough is one of our quiet achievers.

This week she started her second year-long term as president of the Condamine Valley Queensland Country Women's Association.

The branch has more than 45 members, making it the largest in a divisional area which stretches south to Wallangarra and west encompassing Texas and north to Clifton.

Size is not the only point of difference for the Condamine Valley branch; the Warwick-based association is also one of the few left statewide still operating its own tea rooms.

The upside of being a business-oriented association is the branch is financially secure.

However, with that comes a strong sense of obligation and days of responsibility.

"Our tea rooms are run by volunteers so it is a major commitment," Mrs Bilbrough said.

"I try to do at least a day a week working and it is a significant commitment.

"When you are in there you start at 8.30am and you don't sit down until 2pm.

"We are very busy and I don't know whether it's our cheap prices or our food, but we are just getting busier."

Yet she qualifies her contribution with some humour.

"At least it gets me out of the house," she said.

"I'd go berserk if I had to stay home all the time."

Reflecting on her CWA involvement, this personable local admits it has done more than get her out and about.

Her connection with the country sisterhood started 49 years ago back in her hometown of Karara, west of Warwick.

"My mother pressured me into being involved; she insisted we needed younger members," Mrs Bilbrough said.

"So I joined and three months later I was the treasurer of the branch and I didn't have any idea.

"But in many ways it was very good for me: I was a very shy person, not terribly confident or much of a conversationalist. Yet the CWA made you get up and talk."

She was a third-generation member of the Karara branch. Her grandmother, Caroline Fearby, was a member as was her mother, Lil Fearby.

"I was an active member of the Karara branch until about late 1960s when my husband Arthur and I bought a business in the township.

"Between running the store and post office and having two children I just didn't have time."

A tight schedule was a fact of life for the next 22 years for the couple.

Even when they made the decision to close the business, caring for her ill husband meant there was little time for community service commitments.

"We moved to Warwick in 1999 and I looked after Arthur, for the last six months of his life he required constant care and it was hard," she explained.

"But I am certainly not the only one to go through something like that.

"Yet when your partner is very ill, I think you become very wrapped up in their care and it's exhausting and probably doesn't do you a lot of good."

She describes the year after Arthur died as "tough" and a period when, exhausted, she battled her own health problems.

It was the support of her family - both her children, Alison Cavanagh and Ross Bilbrough - who live in Warwick, coupled with her transfer to Condamine Valley CWA that helped her through.

"I have made some very lovely friends through my involvement with the CWA," she said.

"And being involved in the tea rooms for at least a day a week helps me feel like I am still helping people and doing something worthwhile.

"I still believe the CWA does good work and as a charity organisation I still believe people need groups like ours."

As she steps into her second year as president she also acknowledges it is the CWA's 90th year of service, a celebration she hopes to highlight during her term.

"I have told the girls we will be doing a luncheon and this time we are not catering, because we don't want to have to wash up.

"So I think we will go out. That way we will really be able to celebrate."

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