Written by Carolyn Metcalfe
The 47th National Biennial Conference of Catholic Women’s League Australia Inc, was held at the Novotel Sydney Parramatta Hotel from the 22nd to the 24th September 2015. 230 delegates attended the Conference over the two days.
The Conference began with the very beautiful Opening Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral presided over by Very Reverend Father Peter Williams Diocesan Administrator with Father Robert Bossini Dean of the Cathedral, Very Reverend Father David Orr osb National Chaplain and Father Laurence Murphy Western Australian Chaplain concelebrating. We were welcomed to Country by Daisy Barker, Jenny Ebsworth and Rhonda Randall from Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation.
Special guests included, His Excellency General the Hon David Hurley AC DSC (retired) Governor of New South Wales and Mrs Linda Hurley, Julie Owen Federal Member representing the Prime Minister Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Councillor Bakus Makari representing the Mayor of Parramatta, Mr Scott Lloyd.
The Conference speakers were excellent with Ms Pru Goward MP the nation’s first Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Minister for Women. Mrs Goward gave very valuable information as to the Government’s stance on this issue and there was time for Question and Answers to delegates. This session concluded with the very confronting but moving DVD of Rosie Batty’s story “The Nice House”.
Sr Hilda Scott osb Vocations Director for the enclosed Benedictine Abbey at Jamberoo, blessed us with her very special talk on Prayer, reminding us that the pathway to Jesus is always open to us and that we pray according to the way in which we can best find our way to him. Sr Hilda stressed there was no “right way” to pray and that we need to find our own way and just be ourselves. Her talk made us very aware of the closeness we have to Jesus and was a very special gift to us.
The first afternoon concluded with a talk from Pat McDermott, Journalist and writer for the Australian Women’s Weekly and author of the book “Family Matters”. Her light-hearted address and dry humour had us all laughing and relating to our own families growing up. A wonderful way to conclude the first day.
Mr Chris Field from Catholic Development Fund also spoke to us, telling us how the funds we bank with them go to helping many projects within the Dioceses throughout Australia and making loans available for building of schools, presbyteries and the like.
On day two of the Conference our guest speaker was Mrs Jennifer Burn, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law UTS, and Director of Anti-Slavery Australia. Jennifer spoke on Human Trafficking touching on slavery and forced marriage. Jennifer gave us an awareness of the seriousness of this issue here in Australia and showed us some of the ways we can be watchful for signs of this happening around us.
Mr Ken Smith OAM, Historian from the Parramatta Historical Society gave us a history of Parramatta with some beautiful scenes of those past years. Very interesting to see the very progressive city of today in comparison to those early settlement years. 17 of our delegates had the opportunity of a walking tour of Hambledon Cottage house museum prior to the Conference beginning.
The business of the Conference included reports from President’s, WUCWO Board Member of Australia, National International Secretary, Research Officer and Social Issues and Bioethics Convenors. Motions were passed unanimously on issues such as Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Prevention of Youth Suicide, Adult Immunisation, Surrogacy, Foreign Aid, Proposed Changes to Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, Gardasil, Sugar Content in Food. These motions will be followed up with letters to the relevant Federal Ministers.
We were blessed to have with us the President of Catholic Women’s League Aotearoa - New Zealand, Kay Blackburn, accompanied by two of her members, Tui Pasco and Carolyn Johns. Kay gave us a beautiful greeting in Maori and spoke of the work they are doing in New Zealand. The three ladies concluded with a beautiful Maori hymn. We found we are working closely on the same issues and share a close bond with our countries.
The conference gave members a chance to catch up with old friends from across Australia and to make new friends. Some members have attended Conferences for many years and some for the first time. The camaraderie was palpable and there was much enjoyment amongst members.
The Conference dinner was a great success with ladies making full use of the dance floor. The raffle was drawn at the dinner with the prizes going to the following:
1st Prize $1000 Bundaberg CSL Branch
2nd Prize $750 Patricia Leaney. Hobart Branch
3rd Prize $250 Joan Muir South Grafton
Our concluding Mass was quite beautiful, presided over by Father David Orr osb National Chaplain. We began with the acknowledgment of our deceased members since the previous Conference two years ago and ending with the acknowledgment of State Presidents with a Conference candle sending them on their way with our prayers and blessings for their members.
The incoming National Executive from South Australia were introduced with Anne Marie Clark National President Elect. The incoming National Executive are:
National President: Anne Marie Clark
National Vice President 1: Mrs Maureen Clark
National Vice President 2: Mrs Margaret Quinn
National Secretary: Mrs Joan Young
National Treasurer: Mrs Geraldine Davis
The new term begins on the 1st January 2016 for a two year term.