PRIZE CAKES: Shirley Baldwin at the Bundy Show.
PRIZE CAKES: Shirley Baldwin at the Bundy Show. Paul Donaldson BUN310517SHOW27

Birthday bonus for our local branches

THE State Government has delivered an early birthday present to the Queensland Country Women's Association with the news it will provide $1 million in funding to restore the group's heritage halls.

One member who has welcomed the funding is Hinkler QCWA branch president Shirley Baldwin.

"It's going to be a great boost to all branches who own halls and it will go a long way to keeping the branches going,” she said.

Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson said the QCWA was an iconic organisation that was deserving of the funding.

"For almost a century, QCWA heritage halls have been at the heart of community life in Queensland and this funding will help ensure they are used for many years to come,” she said.

"This funding will support maintenance works and improvements at these halls, such as replacing gutters, painting and garden upgrades.”

Mrs Baldwin said it was a nice surprise ahead of the association's 95th birthday celebrations, which will take place today.

Branches from across the Wide Bay will meet at the Oakwood hall this morning for a divisional meeting, which will be followed by a luncheon and cake.

About 40 members will then travel to the Botanic Gardens where they will hop aboard the steam loco before disembarking for an afternoon high tea.

Mrs Baldwin, who has been with the QCWA for 38 years - since 1979 - said she had seen many changes.

While in the past the association was a way for women who were isolated to connect, it was now more about women getting together and raising funds for a good cause.

Mrs Baldwin said as the role of women had changed, with many now working as well as parenting, time was something they no longer had and was partly responsible for a decrease in membership. She said grandparents were now also being called on to look after grandchildren after school and couldn't always spare the time to go to a meeting.

"I hope that it continues as long as it can, but with modern-day living, I feel that pressures of life are greater,” she said.

The Hinkler branch now has 14 members as well as eight young leaders, who are the grandchildren of the members.

They meet once a month and hold a hoy and cent sale on the fourth Saturday of every month, raising money for local charities. In July alone the branch was able to offer assistance to the RACQ LifeFlight helicopter service, flying doctors, the renal unit at the Bundaberg Hospital, Bundaberg Health Services Foundation and Red Cross.

The branch has been through its share of difficult times, too. When the 2013 floods swept through the region, the North Progress Hall went under water and the branch lost most of its goods, as well as its home.

"We lost everything we owned,” Mrs Baldwin said.

This included the branch's PA systems, crockery, cutlery, fridge and urn - "basically everything to do with catering, plus all our prizes”, she said.

A change in the role of women with many now working meant a decrease in membership, Mrs Baldwin said.

To be a part of the QCWA, visit www.qcwa.org.au



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