CWA still has key role at Emu Vale

THE flippant might suggest it's all cuppas and scones, but for the staunch Country Women’s Association members out Emu Vale way, getting together has always meant more than morning tea.

Local branch president Darien Fritz came to her first meeting as a little girl holding her mother’s hand.

That was close to five decades ago, when the Emu Vale memorial hall was new and women of all ages made monthly meetings a major priority.

Today Mrs Fritz knows too well membership numbers have fallen, but not so she says the invaluable support network the association has always offered.

“I think the CWA is as important as ever; women still need women, we still need friendship and support, and this is one of the places you can always find it,” Mrs Fritz said.

Yet she accepts times have changed and the younger generation of women juggle different commitments.

“Young women living on farms or little towns are invariably working now, so they have less time for organisations like ours,” Mrs Fritz said.

She knows personally the time restrictions of a career.

For a decade, somewhere between raising children and running a family farm with her husband, she worked in town and was officially “inactive” in the Emu Vale CWA.

But when time allowed she found her way back to the organisation, which had offered the women in her family so much.

“I have a long connection with the Emu Vale branch, my mum Betty (Mewes) was secretary, treasurer and president at one time or another,” Mrs Fritz said.

Likewise she has followed in her parents’ footsteps, taking on other official roles until earlier this year she too was elected president.

“I am one of the youngest members these days,” Mrs Fritz said.

“There are three of us ‘young’ ones who are in our 50s and 60s.

“My mum Betty is the oldest at 88.”

There is a strong family connection within the branch for the current chief.

Her aunt Winifred Swift, was born in the area in 1926, and has also savoured her share of the top roles, but today for the most part she is content to just continue to be involved.

“Emu Vale changed when the mill closed. A lot of families left and CWA numbers fell, and we never really got them back,” Mrs Swift said.

“New people came, tree changers or lifestylers, but they don’t seem to want to be involved.”

It’s a fact relative newcomer Jenny Whitsed confers with.

When she arrived in the tiny township a decade ago she signed up with the association to meet new friends.

“But a lot of the other new people are from the city and they come out here wanting their space and privacy,” Mrs Whitsed said.

“So we’ve had some difficulty attracting new members.”

For the 10 active women who remain at the Emu Vale branch, the association is as relevant as ever.

“We don’t have any sleeping members, we all still do our share,” Mrs Swift said. “I’ve being coming here for 56 years, for a long time it was the only place I went.

“Even now, if I didn’t get out to a CWA meeting I would just stay at home and I wouldn’t see anyone.”

What keeps them going is the support of neighbouring branches, the enduring friendships and the quiet, but constant support of the men in their lives.

“Our husbands are often great; they lend a hand, they come in, lift things and put work aside to do their bit,” long-time member Merle Rettke said.

But when it comes down to it, what keeps the Emu Vale CWA together is simple – like-minded women.

“You share a lot of life, and in the end we are more than friends, it’s like family,” Mrs Fritz said.

And for the current president it is family in every sense.

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