In 1922 the Brisbane Women’s Club sponsored a conference of women from the country to identify how the Club could help them.
At this time, the country was in the grip of drought and many families were struggling to survive in rural and remote areas, often subsisting on small soldier settlement properties. This led to the formation of the Queensland Country Women’s Association in 1923.
Mrs Ruth Fairfax, the founding President together with a colleague, embarked on a three month state-wide tour, negotiating rough terrain and hostile conditions, to establish a branch network. The original QCWA aims, which continue to be at the heart of the organisation today, include: improving the welfare and conditions of women and children in the country through fostering communities and networks and advocating for improved health and education facilities. The QCWA has an impressive record of collaborating with and influencing governments to improve facilities, develop policies relevant to country communities and to enact or amend legislation when needed.
Its extensive branch network, exemplified by hundreds of properties throughout Queensland, not only facilitates contact and collaboration for women but also, importantly, is a conduit for delivering much needed services in the respective communities. QCWA’s city based facilities which have long been a means of country women accessing specialist professional services, are experiencing renewed demand as a consequence of many rural services being reduced in recent years.
In times of drought, bushfires and floods, the QCWA network dispenses critically needed practical and material support to aid relief efforts. This has been the case throughout QCWA’s history and has been evident in Queensland’s most recent natural disasters where, apart from other contributions, it has assisted over 900 families through its Public Rural Crisis Fund. The Association has also been widely acknowledged for its outstanding contribution to Australia’s war effort during World War II through provision of food, clothing and equipment.
While Queensland is its main focus, the QCWA is actively involved nationally and each year undertakes a major international project to benefit women in third world countries. From modest beginnings, the QCWA has more than fulfilled the original, bold vision while evolving in response to major social changes. In doing so, it continues to contribute greatly to the social and economic wellbeing of country Queenslanders, especially women and families.