Thornlie plants the seed for the CWA’s next 100 years

Thornlie plants the seed for the CWA’s next 100 years

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Pat Morris and CWA State President Anne Gething and CWA Thornlie Branch President Carlene Wakefield with near the memorial tree

Last Wednesday Thornlie celebrated with fanfare the 100 years since the Country Women’s Association first made its mark on the Western Australian social landscape.

The CWA WA was formed in 1924 in Nungarin as a not-for-profit, volunteer-operated women’s organisation aiming to unite women, improve the wellbeing of all, and strengthen community through friendship, education, service and advocacy.

Today, with 126 branches and over 2000 members, there’s not a single corner of the state the CWA hasn’t impacted in a meaningful way.

The Thornlie branch has been a part of that rich history for 55 of those years, with a current active membership of 20 local women – the most senior member, 94-year-old Zoe, was acknowledged during the day’s speeches for her role as mentor and friend of the branch’s youngest member, Sandy, who prides herself on being the official tea lady.

Former Mayor of Gosnells Pat Morris addresses the gathering with a speech which took in the history of the area.

When the Thornlie branch was founded in September 1969, the area was a very different place to the bustling residential suburb it is now.

Only a decade before, the Padbury family’s ‘Thornlie Park’ had begun its transformation from a typically rural area with farmlets, poultry farms, one bus per week, and no telephone lines.

The first 100 homes were constructed in the ‘50s and early ‘60s to the north of the intersection of Thornlie Avenue and Spencer Road. Residences to the south of Thornlie Avenue between Spencer Road and the Canning River were then constructed in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and were sold to city dwellers wanting to stretch out on semi-acreage.

Now Thornlie is home to over 25,000 people and is one of the most multicultural places in Australia.

The CWA Thornlie’s reach is felt throughout the community via its generous donations.

Members raise funds by knitting, crocheting and sewing items which are then sold at stalls held at Forest Lakes Shopping Centre three times a year.

With the funds raised, the branch is able to assist other community groups like Shoebox House and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, provide food to a local soup kitchen, and donate beanies to the homeless and knitted items to premature babies at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The branch has also previously made donations to assist the Royal Flying Doctor Service, communities affected by Cyclone Seroja and local bushfire disasters, and other groups in need.

On Wednesday last week, Thornlie branch president Carlene Wakefield was joined by CWA state president Anne Gething and other state board members, local member Chris Tallentire, City of Gosnells councillors Dianne Lloyd and David Goode, branch and community members to celebrate the centenary at the branch’s Hume Road Hall home.

Photograph – CWA WA

A Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony conducted by Simon Forrest was followed by performances by the Moorditj Mob dancers from Wesley College’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program and ‘Singing For Fun’ – the local senior choir from the Addie Mills Centre.

A commemorative plaque was officially unveiled and a flowering red gum tree donated by the City of Gosnells was also planted in honour of the occasion by state president Anne Gething, branch president Carlene Wakefield, and Patricia Morris.

Thornlie CWA member, Lois Jones, stands next to the new plaque

Ms Gething was presented with an engraved knife to cut the sumptuous blue and white centenary cake before those in attendance tucked into a mouth-watering morning tea featuring delicacies made using the celebrated ‘CWA Cookery Book and Household Hints’, which has now been in continuous publication for just under 90 years.

“Our story is a wonderful tapestry of loyalty, care and resilience,” state president Anne Gething said.

“I am frequently stopped by members of the public, to indulge in a story of reminiscence, how the CWA has made a positive impact in their lives.

“As the 32nd president, I stand on the shoulders of predecessors who have empowered women to get involved, to path a voice for policy change, to deliver an essential service and sometimes simply to offer a cuppa tea and a place to unwind.”

To honour the occasion and the remarkable history of the organisation, the Thornlie Library was presented with a copy of the recently published ‘Women of Spirit – A Centenary of CWA Stories’.

Photographs – Richard Polden