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CWL’s new approach to attract members


With numbers dwindling across the State, the Catholic Women’s League SA is looking to a “shift” in direction as it tries to turn the tide and attract new members.

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Night-time meetings to accommodate women in the workforce and a campaign to raise awareness about the important role the CWL plays in the Catholic community are just some of the recent initiatives of the State Executive.

Established in 1914, the CWL had about 2500 members in South Australia at its peak. Five years ago this number had dropped to 1000 and today there are about 500 members in 30 branches across the State.

State Executive president Cecilia Quigley said the decrease reflected the ageing membership and also that women of today were “time poor”.

“It is important that we boost numbers now, and there needs to be a shift in the way we present the league to potential members,” Ms Quigley said.

“We are trying to meet the needs of people today and are encouraging branches to hold some night meetings to accommodate women who work.

“Many think that the CWL just serves cups of tea and caters for funerals, but we look at significant issues, particularly those affecting women and families. It’s not about being a churchgoer, it’s about being Catholic and having an interest and the energy to do something about social issues.”

CWL SA and all state CWL branches in Australia are affiliated with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations. Each year a representative from Australia attends the Commission for the Status of Women in New York to listen to and participate in lively and sometimes difficult conversations about issues facing women in the world.

Some of the issues currently being tackled by the CWL on a national basis include caring for the Earth, in line with the teachings of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, child pornography, better accommodation and services for people with disabilities, homelessness and the code of practice for commercial television.

“These are significant issues and we’re encouraging branches to seek guest speakers in these areas and then take some form of action,” Ms Quigley added.

She noted that the declining numbers was not a situation unique to the CWL.

“We’re not the only ones suffering as the Knights of the Southern Cross, Rotary and Lions are also finding it difficult to attract members.”

In recent years CWL branches have closed on the Eyre Peninsula, in the Mid North, South East and Murray Mallee, as well as Brighton and Morphett Vale in Adelaide. Most recently the Clare branch, which had its origins in 1934, went into recession. Ms Quigley hoped renewed interest from local Catholic women would enable the branch to re-open in the future.

On a positive note, she said the Riverland remained strong with three branches located at Berri, Barmera and Loxton and despite closing its Mount Gambier branch, the South East was in a good place with branches operating at Naracoorte, Keith and Bordertown.

In her third year as president, Ms Quigley said reinforcing the bond between branches in the city and country was important and the State Executive is now holding every second monthly meeting at a country branch. She also is aiming to personally visit every branch in the State to spread the word about what the CWL does and hopefully attract more members.

“All our CWL members are members of our local parishes and work tirelessly for their communities in a range of roles. It is here that their value and confidence has been acknowledged and their voices have been heard.

“The older women have done a wonderful job, but they just don’t have the energy to take on extra responsibility and it’s time to ask younger women to become involved in our CWL organisation,” she said.

The State Executive of the CWL has moved to a new office at 95 South Terrace, Adelaide. Contact details are




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