Celebrations mark century of WAB network

Celebrations mark century of WAB network


Events
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ONE hundred years on from the formation of the first Women’s Agricultural Bureau branch, country women from throughout the state are returning to Riverton to mark the occasion.

ONE hundred years on from the formation of the first Women’s Agricultural Bureau branch, country women from throughout the state are returning to Riverton to mark the occasion.

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MOMENTOUS OCCASION: Members of the first Women's Agricultural Bureau branch on October 30, 1917, at Riverton.

MOMENTOUS OCCASION: Members of the first Women's Agricultural Bureau branch on October 30, 1917, at Riverton.

On October 28 and 29, Women in Agriculture and Business of SA will host its centenary celebrations.

WAB will mark the event with the unveiling of a commemorative seat and interpretive sign in the Riverton Pioneer Garden and the planting of the ‘Spirit of Rural Women’ rose – launched earlier this year to mark the centenary.

The first Women’s Agricultural Bureau branch was formed on October 30, 1917, as part of the Agricultural Bureau.

WAB historian and Strathalbyn branch secretary Thelma Newman, who will also mark 54 years of involvement with the organisation this year, has been collating the story in preparation for the celebration.

HISTORY SHARED: WAB's Thelma Newman, Strathalbyn.

HISTORY SHARED: WAB's Thelma Newman, Strathalbyn.

She said traditionally ag bureau members would meet monthly – usually on a full moon to allow for safe passage of horse and carts.

“Their wives would come along to make supper and they would talk with each other,” she said.

Following a suggestion from Advisory Board of Agriculture acting secretary HJ Finnis, it was decided a rural women’s group should be formed to help share information on topics in the home, such as hygiene and first aid, as well as farm tips on poultry, dairy or horticulture.

Riverton was selected as the site of the first branch and from there, the idea spread with the formation of up to 156 individual WAB branches across SA.

In 1948, WAB went through a big change, appointing the first WAB council and first president – Florence Perrin from Koolunga – with the date coinciding with the silver jubilee of the Ag Bureau.

SHAKE-UP: The first meeting of the Women's Agricultural Bureau Council on March 12, 1948, in Adelaide.

SHAKE-UP: The first meeting of the Women's Agricultural Bureau Council on March 12, 1948, in Adelaide.

Thelma said this change allowed WAB to run its own affairs, albeit still under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.

Thelma said the groups offered education, friendship and self development, while they also had regular projects that supported local and international charities such as rural counsellors and fresh water in Samoa.

“Women could get together, at least once a month, and share and learn things,” she said.

“In those days, many of the women were quite isolated.

“It’s a bit like a service group, supporting the community, but there is also an education aspect to it.”

Another change came in 2000 when the government removed its support of WAB, with the organisation also changing its name to the Women in Agriculture and Business Inc to broaden its scope.

WAB historian Thelma Newman will also add to the history books written to mark 70 and 90 years with a powerpoint presentation available to buy on USB.

While the Riverton branch has since closed, some early ones still remain, such as the Williamstown branch established in 1921, which merged with the still active Rosedale-Sandy Creek branch, while the Kalangadoo branch has been in place since 1923.

There are 18 active WAB branches.

  • ​Details: wabsa.com.au 
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