Nestled in the heart of the MidTown, the smell of homemade kiss biscuits and melting moments wafts from a tiny green building with hand-knitted tea cosies in the front window – welcome to Hobart’s Country Women’s Association (CWA) Gift Shop. Here, nostalgia welcomes you with a warm embrace and the smell of freshly made jam – just like your nanna used to make.
We sat down with Johanna Warren, manager of the Hobart branch, who has 15 years worth of CWA stories to share with us.
Established in Tasmania in 1942 during the Second World War, the CWA provided support to its members by selling their excess goods during wartime. With a focus on improving the lives of women and children, the CWA has since been a hub for freshly baked goods, community, and friendship for over 80 years!
Nationally renowned for daily baked delights, knitted joys, and creative window displays, fuelled by donations and member contributions, the CWA embodies the wholesome country values of supporting local and building strength in the community.
The ladies at the CWA are all about “bringing the country to the city.”
This local institution doesn’t just serve the community; it creates a warm and inviting space for its members. Joining keeps members busy and social — which are both integral to embracing the ‘golden years.”
“Many people get involved just before they retire, as they know they’re going to need something to do.”
But make no mistake – the CWA members are not just retirees – there are also junior memberships available!
The CWA is an apolitical and non-religious organisation, that welcomes women of all ages to join as members.
You will then be assigned a unique membership number, serving as the sole identifier for your baked treats. All baked goods are marked with this number, ensuring anonymity so you don’t know who’s baked each item. Have you tried number 76’s jam slice? It is to DIE for!
Johanna always has something in the works to keep members busy. She once organised a ‘Scon-a-thon’ to help raise funds for flood relief.
“I had to start making scones at 2 o’clock in the morning to keep up with demand!”
The ladies bundled up kits with jam and cream in containers. From the moment the shop opened. they were flooded with people and were able to raise over two thousand dollars.
One year, Johanna organised the construction of a 3-metre-tall Christmas tree made of yarn. The CWA asked residents from a local nursing home to knit squares to join together. The residents all jumped on a bus and delivered the knitted squares to the CWA in person. “It’s often hard to find that sense of community in the middle of the city.”
In addition to state projects, the CWA organise fundraisers and working bees to support those in need. From assembling hampers for struggling young mothers to crafting ‘trauma teddies’ for children and creating breast pillows for women fighting breast cancer – the CWA is dedicated to lending a helping hand.
“When there’s a flood or a fire, we’re there with eggs, bacon and coffee.”
The CWA is community-driven, with any profits circulated right back into the community – every cent goes right back into Tassie!
But don’t be fooled, they make more than just biscuits and baby clothes. They stock just about everything from handmade purses, soap, and even biscuits and bandanas for dogs! But their best-selling products remain to be Raspberry jam, kiss biscuits, and tea cosies.
When they’re not baking or knitting, they’re rummaging through donations. Got a surplus of empty jars or balls of yarn? The CWA will take it! The CWA have even received whole deceased estates!
“We always find some treasures.”
Beyond membership, there’s the opportunity to contribute by becoming a volunteer!
The ladies who volunteer not only find fulfillment during retirement but also keep up to date with new tech. Volunteers learn how to do eftpos transactions, operate iPads, and use email.
“I believe it’s never too late in life to learn a new skill!”
So, whether you’re missing your Gran’s baked sweets, in need of a last-minute gift, or just want to treat yourself to some fresh native flowers – pop in and say hi to the lovely ladies at the CWA.
You’ll find them at 165 Elizabeth Street, MidTown Hobart.