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Our History - from small beginnings

The beginning of the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union came in 1925 when a number of farmers’ wives were on holiday in Wellington while their husbands attended the Farmers’ Union Conference.

They heard of the hard, lonely lives of many farm women: the unceasing toil, the mud track roads, rivers unbridged.

But what really touched their hearts were the stories of backblock women, of their loneliness and illness and the lack of help. Some of the women had experienced these conditions themselves, and so sixteen of the women agreed to set up a Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union to see what could be done to help.

Our first president was Mrs Polson, while others took on other roles. Then home everyone went, some clear on the issue, some not realising in the least the huge scope of the undertaking.

Back on the farms the question for most was what to do.  It was one thing to offer help and another to know just how to give it.

Mrs Jackson, the treasurer, wrote 2,000 letters in the first year alone. The first branch opened in Oakura in June 1926 and by the first conference in 1926 there were a hundred paid up members.

It was decided to form as many branches of possible (in 2017 there are 164 branches and 2000 strong membership).

One of the prime needs for rural women was to organise reliable help to step in when women were ill or had to leave home. So began the Women’s Division Emergency Housekeeping Scheme. In April 1927 advertisements appeared in the New Zealand press for ‘housekeeper, willing to do anything’ and ‘bush nurse, with surgical and midwifery certificates’.

It was realised the wages to pay such women, who could walk into a household and take over its running - including milking the cow and looking after all the children - would be beyond the means of the farmer, so our new organisation set up a Community Chest fund to subsidise their wages, with donations from members all over the country.

At first the number of women employed as housekeepers and nurses was small. The Government then began to set up better facilities in the form of cottage hospitals and district nurses and the need for bush nurses disappeared.  However the need for help in the home continued to grow.

It was the most important and main work of the WDFU “owing to the reliable and capable women sent out to the homes – women who can take charge of a home of six or eight children, or even twelve children, cook, wash and even milk a few cows at a pinch.”

By the 1990s this work became highly regulated.  Today Rural Women New Zealand is still involved in the sector through policy work with government ministries, health boards and heath services.  

Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union was later renamed Women’s Division Federated Farmers, and at its peak in the 1970s had over 21,000 members.

During the Second World War a call to help saw our members raise $5,000 in a month to fund a Spitfire. The fighter plane with the name WDNZFU inscribed on it had a long and interesting career and was piloted in the first instance by the son of one of our members from Levin Branch, Flt. Lieut. L P Griffith DFC.

Women’s Division, now Rural Women New Zealand, has always been actively involved in rural communities, helping to make them a better place. Our vision is “Growing Dynamic Communities”, and we have achieved this in so many ways, big and small.

 

In the 1970s and 1980s our members raised some $200,000 for leptospirosis research, which played a key role in the development of vaccines for dairy cattle and pigs, thus improving the health of the animals and reducing the risk of contracting this serious disease by farm workers.  In 2009 we re-launched this fundraising campaign and raised a further $107,000 to fund PhD students at Massey University looking into transmission pathways for leptospirosis, following the death of a meat worker at a sheep-only plant.

 

In 2010 we ran the highly successful "Let's Get Plastered for Breast Cancer Campaign", raising awareness of this disease and its prevention, as well as funds for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation.

 

You’ll find lots more about our present activities on this website.  Our four main areas of interest are centred around rural health, education, land use and social issues.

Read All NewsRecent news


 

RURAL WOMAN LEADER ELECTED CHAIR OF LANDCARE TRUST

 

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is delighted that National President Fiona Gower has been elected Chair of the New Zealand Landcare Trust.

RWNZ has been a trustee organisation since the Trust’s inception over twenty years ago and continues to support its work in promoting sustainable land and water quality locally through its Members.

“Fiona is well-suited for the role of Chair of NZ Landcare Trust – she has been RWNZ’s representative on the Trust since 2016, has a deep understanding of farming and is very passionate about sustainable land use and improving water quality,” says National Chair, Penny Mudford.

“RWNZ works to build and support rural leaders and to provide opportunities for leadership development and growth.

“Fiona's experience as RWNZ National President, Board Member, and a former co-ordinator of the rural environment portfolio provides a great foundation for her new role at NZ Landcare Trust.

“We are delighted that Fiona was elected as Chair of New Zealand Landcare Trust and we will continue to support her,” says Ms Mudford.

ENDS

For more information or to schedule an interview please contact Penny Mudford ONZM on 027 246 1936

 

Rural Women New Zealand released a media release calling for a review of school bus eligibility criteria. 

 

 

RURAL SCHOOL BUS SERVICE REVIEW NEEDED

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is calling for a review of the school bus eligibility criteria, particularly in the rural areas.

“The safest way for children to get to school in rural New Zealand is by bus, however, the current eligibility criteria for the service means that children are being put in dangerous situations,” says Education Portfolio Convenor and Board Member, Sue Higgins.

“If children live within two kilometres of a rural school they are not eligible for the local bus service where there is one, and are forced to walk or cycle on roads with no shoulders, often used by logging trucks, stock trucks and milk tankers, making it treacherous for our children.

“RWNZ understands that parents are responsible for ensuring their children go to school, however, the rural bus is vital for farming families who have both a busy working life and distance, for those who live further away, to contend with.

“A review of the criteria applied to children’s eligibility for their local rural school bus service is needed – school by school.

“It’s time the Government showed leadership on keeping our rural children safe on their journey to and from school,” says Mrs Higgins.

Ends

 

For further information, please contact:
Rural Women New Zealand
National Office
04 473 5524
[email protected]


 

 

Rural school bus service review needed.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand released a media release calling for a review of school bus eligibility criteria.  Read More

 Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release following the announcement that Lumsden will lose its birthing unit. 

 

MEDIA RELEASE

16 August 2018
For immediate release

 

RURAL MATERNITY CARE IN CRISIS

The downgrading of maternity care in rural Otago and Southland will be catastrophic says Rural Women New Zealand(RWNZ).

“On top of the news that Lumsden’s birthing unit has been downgraded to a pre- and post-natal care unit, RWNZ understands that Wanaka has lost its bid to have a primary birthing unit and this does not bode well for rural communities,” says Board Member and Health Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Whilst RWNZ is somewhat pleased that Lumsden will retain care facilities for any woman with pre- and post-natal needs, women ready to give birth will need to travel at least 50 kilometres to the nearest delivery suite.

“Wanaka is expecting 200 births this coming year and there will be no primary birthing unit, and like Lumsden, will become a hub.

“The Otago-Southland region has a huge hinterland with many young parents who are choosing to have families and raise them in this wonderful part of the world and are at risk due to distance from the maternity care they are entitled to.

"No consideration has been given to those parents who have needed the services provided at Lumsden and already travelling up to two hours, now having an extra 50 kilometres added.

“When assessing maternity needs there is always two lives to consider, the mother and the child, and its outrageous that at the time in their lives when they should be close to their families they are not able to be, due to poor decision-making.

“It is not acceptable that pregnant women in rural areas of the South Island are now miles away from anywhere that can support them to have safe births, something a rural impact analysis would have highlighted.

“It’s time the Government and DHB ensured rural communities have the same access to maternity care as urban communities expect,” says Mrs Pittaway.

Ends

 

For more information, please contact National Office.

[email protected]

04 473 5524

 

 

 

 

 

Rural maternity care in crisis

Thursday, August 16, 2018

 Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release following the announcement that Lumsden will lose its birthing unit.  Read More

Please read below our media release about Suffrage125 celebrations with RWNZ across the country. 

 

NEW ZEALAND’S FARMING WOMEN CELEBRATING 125 YEARS ON

Rural women across the country have been celebrating the 125th year of universal suffrage in a variety of events says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“The 125th celebration of the day women finally won the right to vote is such a big milestone in New Zealand’s history that commemoration events will to be held over several days,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

“RWNZ Suffrage Day celebrations ranged from sharing family stories about collecting signatures on the petition, marches through rural towns, to our involvement in the ‘What Women Want’ project.

“Other events include capsule openings, celebrations alongside other community groups, and screenings of women-centric movies including ‘She Shears’.

“Our social media campaign in conjunction with the Ministry of Primary Industries showcasing New Zealand’s primary sector women is my personal highlight of the Suffrage 125 commemorations.

“Many of our Members will be celebrating right up until 28 November, which is the date of the first election in which women could vote in 1893,” says Ms Gower.

Ends

For further information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Rural Women New Zealand
National Office
04 473 5524
[email protected]


 

New Zealand's farming women celebrating 125 years on

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Please read below our media release about Suffrage125 celebrations with RWNZ across the country. 

 

NEW ZEALAND’S FARMING WOMEN CELEBRATING 125 YEARS ON

Rural women across the country have been celebrating the 125th year of universal suffrage in a variety of events says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“The 125th celebration of the day women finally won the right to vote is such a big milestone in New Zealand’s history that commemoration events will to be held over several days,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

“RWNZ Suffrage Day celebrations ranged from sharing family stories about collecting signatures on the petition, marches through rural towns, to our involvement in the ‘What Women Want’ project.

“Other events include capsule openings, celebrations alongside other community groups, and screenings of women-centric movies including ‘She Shears’.

“Our social media campaign in conjunction with the Ministry of Primary Industries showcasing New Zealand’s primary sector women is my personal highlight of the Suffrage 125 commemorations.

“Many of our Members will be celebrating right up until 28 November, which is the date of the first election in which women could vote in 1893,” says Ms Gower.

Ends

For further information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Rural Women New Zealand
National Office
04 473 5524
[email protected]


 

 Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding.

Read the announcement here.  

 

 

ANOTHER SET BACK FOR THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF RURAL COMMUNITIES

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to see that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will cease operating if it does not receive government funding next week.

 

“RWNZ supports the work already done by RHAANZ in bringing together various rural groups and rural health providers to develop initiatives for rural communities,” says RWNZ Board Member and Health Portfolio Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Remarkable work has been done to deliver the Rural Health Road Map which sets out a plan and priorities for achieving healthily rural communities.

“Being geographically isolated, often with significant distance to the nearest town or health centre means that rural communities have an immediate need of affordable and reliable access to all health services.

“The Government has committed to rural proofing government policy, and RHAANZ has a vital part to play in this development – without the continuation of RHAANZ, and the work it does, rural communities will go backwards.

“There is no other place where issues impacting the health and wellbeing of rural communities are considered concurrently, and the loss of achievements met and efforts made by RHAANZ will be detrimental for our rural people.

RWNZ urges the Government to recognise the good work that has been done by RHAANZ and to support its continuation," says Mrs Pittaway.

Ends

 

 

Another setback for health and wellbeing of rural communities.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding. Read More

 

 

NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards

 

The NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards will be held on the evening of Tuesday, 20 November 2018 in Wellington in the Banquet Hall at Parliament.

A review of the Enterprising Rural Women Awards has been completed by the RWNZ Board with feedback from members and participants, external advice, and the awards partners.

The awards have been renamed the NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards and NZI is the Premier Partner. The categories have been broadened, the application process has been updated and the judging criteria strengthened.

 

The NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards give an outstanding opportunity to showcase your business. The event attracts extensive media coverage and promotional opportunities. All winners will receive a membership of Rural Women New Zealand for one year. All category winners will each receive $1000 in prize money and a trophy, and the Supreme Winner will receive a further $1000 in prize money.

 

 

“Winning the Supreme Award was such an amazing result. I am proud of my achievements and honoured to be surrounded by such inspiring, talented and strong women,”

- Debra Cruickshank of Tannacrieff Wines, Supreme winner 2017.

 

The categories for the NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards 2018 are:

  • Emerging business: Awarded to a business starting out in its journey and achieving exceptional results. Open to businesses that have been running from 2 – 5 years.
  • Love of the Land: Harnessing the potential of New Zealand’s land, environment or products of the land, to create a successful business enterprise.
  • Creative Arts: A business specialising in the creative arts working in a rural environment or using rural materials.
  • Innovation: An enterprise that challenges the status quo to bring something new and innovative to the market or utilising rural resources in an innovative way.
  • Rural Champion: A person or business who champions the rural sector or a rural enterprise – an outstanding contributor who goes above and beyond the normal in their support rural enterprise. Open to anybody.
 

A Supreme winner will be chosen from all category finalists, who has shown excellence and outstanding achievement across all entry criteria.

Please read the media release launching the NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards here:

If you are interested in supporting the awards as a category partner, please contact [email protected].

NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

  Read More