15 October 2020
Meet the ladies of the QCWA
EVERY year, country folk from across the state herd into Brisbane for the most prestigious agriculture show, the Ekka.
But if you speak to Sylvia Raper and Sue Baillie of the Queensland Country Womens Association (QCWA), it’s not the prizes or glory that keep farmers coming back every year; it’s probably the scones.
“The QCWA has been at the Queensland Royal Show since 1924 and we’ve only missed a couple of years: one year because the war was on and the year they demolished the original building,” Sylvia said. “The food we offer at the Ekka hasn’t changed over the last 10 or 20 years. “The QCWA started out making a sandwich in a brown paper bag for the farmers who came to the city. “Our scones, jam and cream are still the banner we fly under; we provide nice fresh food.”
These two firm friends are the women behind the Ekka’s Eats and Treats Cafe, providing farmers with the warm country hospitality for which the QCWA is most famous, in the heart of the city. “(In 2018) we baked the scones fresh every day,” Sue said. “We baked batch after batch after batch, it was like they had legs on; they were just walking out.”
The cafe is a meeting place for country people to meet, mingle and catch up over a cuppa while staying in Brisbane. “They come in here and they can sit down and have a cup of tea and the city people come here just the same,” Sue said “In 2018, we served 7,000 Devonshire teas.”
Sylvia, who has been the QCWA Ekka Convener for seven years, said they had 400 volunteers working three four-hour shifts each day. “I have a great team around me at the Ekka, they make my role very easy,” she said. “I feel they do all the heavy lifting and I flit around the edges picking up where I can. “It is the most rewarding 14 days I spend during the year as the profits from the cafe are donated. “The largest portion goes to the Public Rural Crisis Fund distributed by the QCWA to families in crisis across the state.”
Sue is the QCWA division president and works with new branches. “We have new groups start up and once they have a certain number of members, they become a branch,” she said. “They run in their own right and what we’re finding is we’re getting a lot of younger people joining. “We have night groups that meet after work. They have dinner together and then have their meeting. “The new groups are extremely successful and diverse. All the women are from different walks of life - teachers, accountants, architects - and they all have different strengths." “They’re extremely welcoming and they have so much fun.”
Both Sylvia and Sue love the friendship borne through the QCWA, and the tradition of helping others. “I get a lot out of the QCWA, I love the friendship and helping people, it’s very rewarding,” Sylvia said. “I love the work QCWA does with families, especially women and children in need.”
Sue agreed. “I love the friendship and the work we do in the community,” Sue said. “We do things for DV Connect and Hugs for the Heart for the Queensland Police Service and we do birthing kits and kits for kids. That’s what I really like to do.”
Meet Sylvia, Sue and the other QCWA volunteers every year at the Ekka.