Our country woman of the year: Janice Hayward.
Our country woman of the year: Janice Hayward.

Top country woman of the year

WHEN Janice Hayward was asked to run for the Queensland Country Woman's top honour – country woman of the year – she spent an afternoon thinking of nice ways to say ‘No'.

It wasn't that the Alloracattle woman didn't believe in the cause.

To the contrary, she credits the long-running rural organisation with saving her from loneliness as a young bride, and then offering her lifelong friendship and support.

It was simply she didn't know if she was the right person. But yesterday the confidence of her peers helped shelve her uncertainty.

Mrs Hayward was announced Border District Country Woman of 2010 at the annual presentation ceremony and celebrations at the Warwick RSL.

“When I went home after they first asked me to run I was full of reasons why I shouldn't, but my husband Bern said ‘Why not?'.” she recalled.

Yesterday she accepted the sash graciously, admitting it was both flattering and an honour to represent an organisation she had been part of – on and off – for a total of 47 years.

“It is an honour and I am looking forward to it,” Mrs Hayward said.

She joined the QCWA “quite a few years ago” at the urging of her husband.

“Bern thought I needed to get out and see some women, otherwise my life would be all about cattle,” she said.

Newly married and helping her husband manage a cattle property between Leyburn and Millmerran, she relished the hands-on challenges of rural life.

But that first meeting with a group of like-minded ruralwomen in a tin shed, with no power, had a positive impact.

“Joining the CWA then saved me from being lonely; they were a very supportive, friendly group,” Mrs Hayward said.

As the years passed she took her babies along and shared the stories and stresses of life on the land with her peers.

“For me, one of the most important things was the friendships that came through the group,” she said.

“We raised money for worthy causes and we did crafts and ran food stalls.

“But for me it was primarily about friendship.”

After she and her husband left the Millmerran area to start their own cattle-showing centre, later buying “Denville” at Allora, there were gaps in her CWA involvement.

“We were scrimping, saving and working hard to get ourselves started in our own business, so it did take a back seat for a while.”

Yet when she had time to sign up again, with her closest branch the Victoria Hill CWA, west of Allora, it was friendship and support which again proved central.

“I was diagnosed with a little bit of breast cancer a while back, and they were all there for me,” Mrs Hayward said.

For the past two years she has repaid their debt of friendship and acknowledged their support by taking on the role of Victoria Hill branch president.

“We only have 12 members, some of whom are in their 80s now, so it does get tricky,” she said.

“But I still believe in the cause. I still feel the CWA is committed to making the lives of rural families, in particular women and children, better.

“We still work hard for the charities we support and we are there for one another.”

She knows, as one who spends her spare time working cattle or riding a motorbike, that times have changed in the rural sector.

“It is not easy to make a living in the bush, and young families are often forced to work off farm to make ends meet,” Mrs Hayward said.

“And even so there aren't as many young families in the bush as there once was.

“But it is still a good place to live and a special place to raise children.

“And I think we still need friendship and the CWA.”

At 66, far from winding down her involvement with the orga- nisation, she sees CWA taking up more of her time.

“I think I might be just about to get busy,” she said reflecting on her new role as Border District Country Woman of the Year.

Mrs Hayward will join other QCWA divisional winners for the State judging in Brisbane in October.



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