AFTER more than six decades of service and care to the community, the Lexton branch of the Country Women’s Association will close due to declining membership.
In what treasurer and secretary Nancy Dean described as “the end of an era”, the group’s seven members took the decision to close after a recent recruitment drive failed to find newcomers.
Like many of the longstanding institutions of Australian country life, CWA branches has seen membership decline as younger women continue to move to metropolitan areas.
“We are very sad it is coming to an end after all these years,” Mrs Dean said.
“The branch has a long history of trying to make Lexton a better place for everyone, but some people don’t know we are more than just scones, jam and cream.”
With some members less mobile and active and a lack of younger recruits, Mrs Dean said the closure had become inevitable for Lexton.
“Like many community volunteer organisations, it just seems to be very hard to get new members to join and make the commitment.”
Mrs Dean, who joined the branch in 1984, said the CWA had contributed a great deal to the Lexton community through educational scholarships, events and even helping families during recent flood assistance efforts. “We are a lot more than just our cookbook,” she said.
The group’s final branch event will be a celebration dinner at the Lexton Hotel, with some including Mrs Dean joining nearby branches.
She said while some of Lexton’s members were in their 80s, other parts of the organisation were experiencing a resurgence of growth, with Ballarat’s CWA now home to 18 sub-branches. “I think a big part of the bond with the community is being lost and there are risks to that,” she said.
“There is a real battle at the moment in country areas with a lot of young people moving out or going away to the city for work.”
The CWA Ballarat District Group has turned to online promotion, including social media and blogs to promote its activities and recruit new members. The Ballarat branch has more than 400 “likes” on Facebook alone.
Creswick CWA branch secretary Pauline O’Brien said she was surprised and saddened to hear of the Lexton branch closure.
“We currently have 18 members who age from their 70s down to 25,” Mrs O’Brien said.
“People think we are all old ladies with grey hair but that is not correct at all. We have one member with a new baby and two others who are expecting.”
Mrs O’Brien said she joined the branch as a new arrival in Creswick three years ago, and found it an easy way to build links throughout the community.