At a table in the front room of the local pub in Nathalia, the women of the Nathalia Night Watch Branch of the Country Women’s Association laugh and chat over a beer on a balmy country evening.
These women represent the next generation of CWA members: they’re young working women, and while the CWA is an important part of their lives it’s not the be-all and end-all.
Among the landscape of the CWA, this Nathalia branch stands out as a very different kind of club.
While most CWA clubs are composed of grandmothers, the average age of the Nathalia night branch is just 42 years old.
There are no scones and no knitting needles at this catch-up, just a continuous flow of laughter as the women share stories from their lives.
Branch president Lauryn Blake said when most people heard she was in the CWA their response was ‘‘my grandmother was in it’’.
‘‘It’s a pretty well known fact that the CWA is ageing itself into extinction really, just because a majority of members are getting older and they’re not really replacing them at the same rate,’’ she said.
‘‘We’d hate for the traditions to die with that.’’
The branch’s aim is that as members share their own experiences with women around them, they will be able to spread the message of the modern CWA throughout other clubs and increase branch membership across the region.
Member Kylie Dohnt said the goal for the future of the CWA was a simple one.
‘‘To continue, not to fold,’’ she said.
Despite concerns about the future, the general feeling among the group is that the organisation is coming full circle and that as younger members begin to join branches of the CWA it can return to its glory days, albeit looking very different.
While the Nathalia club still runs markets and bake sales, its social events are a world away from tea and scones, involving everything from a pole dancing class to winery tours.
Member Anita Stirling said the club was about giving members an opportunity to have something for themselves.
‘‘It’s something for us, that we’re not just about our work, our children, it’s something for us,’’ she said.
It’s a sentiment shared by many of the members who have responsibilities to families and work obligations, and can’t always find time for themselves.
Ms Blake said the branch was designed to fit into each member’s lives and in the modern CWA flexibility was key.
‘‘There’s no obligation, you can come every month without fail or you can come when you can,’’ she said.
‘‘Because we’re such a good group of women, it ends up being fun.’’