Local CWA members will join more than 800 women from across NSW who will attend business seminars and discuss medical research and rural issues.
The organisation’s state conference is being held at New England Girls School, starting on Monday.
The CWA is the largest women’s organisation in the country, with more than 10,000 members, so have the clout to speak to parliament and make their voices heard.
"They take those motions to parliament to try to improve the standard of living in rural areas - also in the cities, but rural is a big focus because they're the ones that miss out a lot,” convener Thea Zwiebel said. “They do a lot of good."
This is the first time that Armidale has hosted the state conference (Tamworth held it in 2015). Each year, the five CWA zones in the state apply to host the conference; it was announced in September that the Northern Tablelands group, to which Armidale belongs, would host it.
The group also covers Guyra, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Ben Lomond, Deer Vale, and Kelly Plains – Dangersleigh.
Hosting so many visitors, Ms Zwiebel said, is a massive undertaking. A committee of 11 people from the Northern Tablelands CWA’s eight branches have worked for months to bring the event to fruition. They have been guided by the state office, which runs the conference.
The Armidale Regional Council, Ms Zwiebel said, has been very supportive. They have hoisted flags along the streets, and helped with parking, while the Visitor Information Centre is running tours for members and their partners to promote Armidale.
The event is expected to bring nearly $2.5 million to Armidale, as the hundreds of members and their partners eat, shop, and sleep. Armidale has more than 5000 beds, but the motels are already full, while bed-and-breakfasts and Airbnbs are going to be busy.
The conference opens with an ecumenical service on Sunday afternoon, before business opens on Monday. Once the seminars are over, the Northern Tablelands CWA will host an open house at Armidale Town Hall, showcasing what they do, including selling food and crafts (everything from knitting to beads).
“I'd just like to encourage the public to go out to NEGS on the Thursday and Friday, and have a look at the exhibitions because there's cooking, handicrafts, and it's the best in the state, so there's a lot to be seen and a lot to be learnt.”
The Northern Tablelands CWA started with the Armidale group, set up by Mary White of Saumarez Homestead in the 1920s, then spread through the region.
Today, it has nearly 200 members dedicated to improving conditions for country women and children.
“We do a lot of things,” Ms Zwiebel said. “Somebody needs a hand, we’re there. If we know somebody rural’s having a problem, we can try and help.”
NSW Governor David Hurley will visit Armidale on Monday where he will officially open the annual state CWA conference at New England Girls School.
Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray will welcome visitors to the event, before guest speakers John Barilaro MP, Deputy Premier of NSW, and Bronnie Taylor MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW, take to the stage.
Other speakers at this year’s conference include the 2018 winner of the NSW/ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, Jillian Kilby from Dubbo, and financial planning expert Brendan Ryan.
CWA of NSW President, Annette Turner, said Armidale was a great venue for the organisation’s biggest event of the year, and the motions to go before members would encourage some interesting debate.
“There are more than 20 motions this year, and as is the case every year, they cover a wide range of issues, reflecting the diversity of our membership and the communities in which they live,” she said.
One of the motions concerns greater assistance for communities trying to tackle the impact of flying fox populations.
The CWA’s Bingara branch has proposed a motion asking that “as a matter of urgency” the CWA of NSW advocate for the creation and implementation of a strategic plan to protect the health and sustainability of communities and environments affected by the feeding and roosting of the grey-headed flying fox.
Marg Foster, Bingara branch president, said members proposed the motion out of concern for towns and cities across the state that were feeling the very real impact of flying foxes, but struggling to find workable solutions to the problem.
“As a branch, we feel this is an important issue and one the CWA of NSW can assist with in terms of advocating for these communities and affected residents,” she said.
At present there seems to be little that can be done to assist them so we feel there’s an urgent need for a strategic management plan that focuses on the wellbeing of these communities and ways to help them.”
If this motion is successfully passed, the CWA of NSW will adopt a formal policy around the need for a strategic management plan regarding the flying fox issue, enabling it to advocate for change as an organisation.
Mrs Turner said she is looking forward to bringing members together to discuss and debate a range of issues.
“These are important issues and as each motion comes up for debate, there will be many passionate views expressed,” Mrs Turner said.
“The CWA of NSW takes its advocacy role very seriously and many of the successful motions from this conference will shape our lobbying efforts for the year ahead.”