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Australian Women’s association votes to include male and transgender members

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The West Australian Country Women’s Association (CWA) has sparked debate by extending membership rights to men and transgender individuals after 100 years.

The decision, made during the CWA’s centenary celebrations in Western Australia, saw members overwhelmingly vote in favour of the change. At the annual general meeting, 106 of the 108 branches across the state supported the motion to amend the constitution, with only two branches dissenting.

This groundbreaking vote allows men to apply for associate membership, though they will not have voting rights or individual branch memberships. CWA WA chief executive Trish Langdon explained that this move acknowledges the longstanding support of men for the CWA and aims to connect the association with key influencers.

“Mia Davies is a member, Nola Marino is a member, so why not have others, not just politicians, but business partners and so on,” said Langdon.

However, the decision also raised questions about the inclusion of so-called ‘transgender women.’ Langdon stated that while the constitution does not specifically address transgender individuals, the association welcomes them, provided they adhere to its values.

“My sense is if people want to join the CWA, they need to abide by our values and our core businesses. It’s not there to make a political statement,” she said. “I don’t have any issues at all with transgender people coming and joining as long as they abide by the values of the organisation.”

With this vote, Western Australia joins South Australia and Queensland in allowing men as non-voting members. Sheila Campbell, president of Queensland CWA, noted their inclusive policy since 2015 under the Friends of QCWA banner.

Despite these changes, some states like NSW, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory continue to restrict membership to women only. Representatives from these regions indicated that the inclusion of men has not been a topic of discussion among their members.

The meeting also saw a shift in WA’s CWA status from a not-for-profit to a charity, aimed at boosting donations. New president Felicity Edwards expressed optimism about the modernisation efforts.

“It will allow us some flexibility and some opportunities, particularly financial opportunities that we didn’t necessarily have with the rules that we were governed under before,” she said.

Edwards, who joined the CWA seven years ago, aims to revitalize the declining membership base, focusing on strengthening existing memberships.



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