I'VE always admired the resilience of the members of the CWA, but never more so than this year. The chosen theme for our 98th annual state conference, which ultimately did not go ahead, was to be "strength in adversity".
This theme was chosen well before the COVID-19 pandemic and has turned out to be more appropriate than we ever imagined.
We started the year still in the devastating grip of drought, and with many areas under emergency bushfire conditions. Homes were lost and rural communities affected.
The CWA of NSW branches rallied in their own way across the state - providing direct support for people who had lost accommodation or businesses, and undertaking fundraising activities or channeling relief to where it was needed.
We were saddened to not gather in May, however we were able to undertake postal voting for a number of Annual General Meeting items for the first time ever.
We thank the Hunter River Group for all their work in preparing for what was going to be a fantastic conference in Newcastle.
COVID-19 not only affected our conference as many branches were unable to meet and perform their normal charitable and support activities or network.
Throughout the year the CWA of NSW continued to work on drought relief, more than $18.5 million so far distributed to farming families as a $3000 household grant.
We have been able to distribute this money using our pre-existing disaster relief fund and donations from a number of private and corporate donors, as well as a Federal Government grant.
Our usual Awareness Week activities were also disrupted, but that didn't stop our members getting out and embracing this year's topic - domestic violence.
We partnered with Domestic Violence NSW and hosted a parliamentary roundtable in December to further raise awareness and seek more action.
We've continued our strong and respected advocacy presence across a number of rural, regional and remote issues. We've become one of the leading voices on landholder issues arising out of the Inland Rail, and have built for the first time, a group action platform, in conjunction with the NSW Farmers Association.
We've lobbied for drought relief and policy support, transparency in the water debate, biosecurity and pest/weed management, rural education, telecommunications and infrastructure, and have undertaken a large survey of our members on rural, regional and remote health services for the current NSW Upper House inquiry.
We've continued our stakeholder relationships, and formed new alliances.
This and much more continues and while we are hopeful for a more settled 2021, I know our members, branches and rural communities will continue to demonstrate strength in adversity into the new year and well beyond. It's what we do.
- By Stephanie Stanhope, Country Women's Association of NSW state president.