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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

The Rural Women New Zealand National Office has relocated to Technology One House, Level 5, 86-96 Victoria Street, Wellington.

RWNZ National Office would like to advise members that since the relocation on 10 July 2017, postal delivery to the new office location has been disrupted.

We have already mailed out Membership invoices to members. We expect that you may be sending your payment and invoice slip back to National Office. We are aware that some mail posted to RWNZ has been returned to senders. Sincere apologies for any inconvenience. We are working with New Zealand Post to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns about invoices, please email: [email protected] or phone the National Office: 04 473 5524.

As at Tuesday 18 July, the reception phone line is connected, phone 04 4735524. 

If you have an email enquiry, please email [email protected]

We will keep you updated with progress on the relocation, phone and email services, through the RWNZ website and social media: Facebook (www.facebook.com/ruralwomennz/) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/RuralWomenNZ).

 

 

RWNZ National Office has moved

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Rural Women New Zealand National Office has relocated to Technology One House, Level 5, 86-96 Victoria Street, Wellington. Read More

The Government has announced that an extra $270 million will be spent on improving rural broadband and bridging cellphone blackspots in regions throughout New Zealand.

$130m will be spent on expanding fibre-optic ultrafast broadband (UFB) to another 60,000 homes and businesses in 190 towns.

$140m will extend the number of subsidised wireless broadband services to another 74,000 homes and businesses, as well as deliver mobile coverage to approximately 1000km of rural highways and more than 100 tourist areas.

Once completed, UFB will be available to 87 per cent of the population and 99 per cent will have access to high speed internet by 2022.

“The benefits of extra spending to expand connectivity for rural communities are immense. The services will lead to greater economic growth and better access to online education, social services and health information,” says Fiona Gower, National President of Rural Women New Zealand.

“Rural residents will feel safer with better mobile coverage, and the connectivity will reduce the feeling of isolation for those living in remote areas.”

In the past few years, RWNZ has been involved in discussions with nationwide broadband and mobile service providers and government agencies to ensure that rural connectivity remains a top priority. RWNZ is a member of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) and has provided feedback to Crown Fibre Holdings on the social and economic benefits of improved rural connectivity.

RWNZ policy work includes submissions on the RBI 2 and mobile black spots programmes, the draft Digital Technologies education curriculum and the Review of the Telecommunications Act 2001.

While the majority of the roll out contract has been won by Chorus and a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees; smaller wireless internet providers (WISPs) will receive work worth $13m.

Click here to read more about the roll out.


We spoke to Bridget Canning who is the operator of Wizwireless which is a provider of high speed wireless internet broadband for the Wairarapa region. 

“WIZwireless supports the Government in addressing the need to improve the broadband services that remote kiwis rely on and we will provide more and better services throughout the Wairarapa Region," says Bridget.

“WIZwireless is delighted that the Government has recognised the vital role that Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) already play in getting reliable and effective broadband to many rural and remote New Zealanders.

“WISPs all over New Zealand are going to deliver fast, modern broadband, that will meet or exceed the Government's target rural broadband specifications by using the latest fixed wireless technologies, this is how tens of thousands of rural kiwi's already get their broadband internet connections including WIZwireless.

“WISP's have proven themselves to be reliable, robust and resilient, during last year's Kaikoura earthquake Amuri Net was the only telecommunications network to come through intact and provided the community with vital connectivity in the days following the earthquake.

“This additional investment by the Government will allow us, the WISPs to upgrade our existing networks and build new sites that will expand our coverage to even more rural and remote internet users who are desperately in need of modern broadband connectivity.

“Individual WISPs who are participating in RBI2 will release their own plans for their local RBI2 programs, we are local businesses who know our communities very well and we are excited by the opportunities that will be created by improved broadband in our communities.”

Bridget received a Certificate of Special Recognition as an Enterprising Rural Woman, at the 2015 RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Awards for her business success to date.


 

Faster rollout of broadband and mobile will improve connectivity to rural homes

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Government has announced that an extra $270 million will be spent on improving rural broadband and bridging cellphone blackspots in regions throughout New Zealand. Read More

Rural Support Trust representatives are working closely with farmers to monitor well-being and directing them to relief assistance for flooding and other adverse events.

The Rural Support Trust advise farmers to ensure stock and domestic animals have food, water, and shelter where necessary, and are secure. Ensure that all stock injuries are promptly attended too, after human needs are met.

If your farm or rural property or stock has been affected by an adverse event and you need assistance, contact your local Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) with information on the impacts on your farm, or requests for help.

The Rural Women New Zealand Adverse Events and Relief Fund is available to individuals, communities and groups, with a particular emphasis on rural women and children. The fund provides financial assistance to persons or groups, where there is an identified urgent need due to recent adverse events such as drought, fires, floods or earthquakes.

Click here to read more about applying for the fund.

Contact details for support agencies:
The Rural Support Trust (RST organise community events and one-on-one mentoring, as well as targeted support services in emergency situations)  
http://www.rural-support.org.nz Ph: 0800 787 254.

DairyNZ: Sharemilkers support http://www.dairynz.co.nz/farm/tactics/support-for-sharemilkers/

Federated Farmers http://www.fedfarm.org.nz/ Ph: 0800 327 646 or drought feedline 0800 376 844.

Doug Avery’s Resilient Farmer http://www.resilientfarmer.co.nz/

Farmstrong http://www.farmstrong.co.nz


If you just want to talk, or know someone who is at risk, there are a range of support options available, including counselling services:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling

Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.

Women's Refuge: 0800 REFUGE (733 843) a 24/7 crisis and support line provide advice and information.

Shakti New Zealand 0800SHAKTI (0800 742 584) If you are in a situation of domestic violence call our 24-hour crisis line, and multi-lingual staff will provide information.

Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.

What'sup: 0800 942 8787 (0800 What’s Up) is a counselling helpline for children and young people, aged 5-18. Phone Mon-Fri 1-10pm, Sat-Sun 3-10pm.

Kidsline: 0800 543 754, it is a 24/7 helpline for children and teens, run by specially trained youth volunteers.

Thelowdown.co.nz - Free Text 5626, watch videos or contact for support. 

depression.org.nz National Depression Initiative (for adults), 0800 111 757 - 24 hour service 

Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki If you're worried about a child or family that you know, there are ways you can help, contact Child, Youth and Family.

For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz .

If it is an emergency, or you feel yourself, or someone you know is at risk, please call 111.

Rural community support services

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Rural Support Trust representatives are working closely with farmers to monitor well-being and directing them to relief assistance for flooding and other adverse events. Read More

The Ministry of Health has proposed a new framework for suicide prevention and is seeking feedback. Rural Women New Zealand’s (RWNZ) submission supports the general framework.

Although expresses concern regarding the lack of concrete targets and detailed methods for how any of the initiatives will be implemented. We are especially concerned about the lack of a strategic plan to lead and fund these activities.

The proposed framework aims to address the devastating impact that suicide has on New Zealand’s communities and the unfortunate reality that over 500 people in New Zealand die by suicide every year. RWNZ supports the framework’s focus on supporting positive wellbeing for all ages, increasing awareness of suicidal behaviour and mental health, strengthening systems already in place to support communities, and improving collaboration among those working to prevent suicidal behaviour.

In our submission, we have addressed the fact that the suicide rate is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, as well as the various factors that place rural communities at an increased risk of mental illness. These factors include vulnerability to economic fluctuations and social isolation, which are compounded by the lack of access to services and support, substandard or no access to reliable and affordable internet and mobile coverage, and the history of inequalities that rural communities face often being overlooked.

RWNZ has suggested that in order to improve mental wellbeing in rural areas, rural health research must become a priority to understand and address the needs of rural communities. We have also urged the Ministry of Health to refrain from relying on technological health services, recognising that not all rural communities have access to reliable and affordable internet and mobile coverage.

Rural Women New Zealand strongly supports the framework’s proposal to involve, train and educate community members on suicide prevention. Rural Women New Zealand has expressed that it is essential for rural communities to be provided with the right tools to improve mental wellbeing within the community and reduce social stigma associated with mental illness.

As further information becomes available, this will be distributed to the members.

 

Click here to download the Submission: June 2017 Suicide Prevention Strategy Submission


 

 

Suicide Prevention Strategy Submission

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Ministry of Health has proposed a new framework for suicide prevention and is seeking feedback. Rural Women New Zealand’s (RWNZ) submission supports the general framework. Read More

Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) is RWNZ's topic of study for 2017. We have included an overview of the purpose of ACWW below, along with some links to further information.

RWNZ was one of the founding members of ACWW. It is one of the largest international development organisations for rural women.

The ACWW network allows it to engage at the local, national, and international level with the aim of achieving these goals:

- To raise the standard of living for rural women and their families through education, training and community development programmes.

- To provide practical support to our members and help them set up income-generating schemes.

- To support educational opportunities for women and girls, and help eliminate gender discrimination.

- To give rural women a voice at an international level through our links with UN agencies and bodies.

Caption: Delegates from the South Pacific Area Conference in New Plymouth complete the ACWW Walk the World event in April 2017. 

Click here to download an information booklet about ACWW (8MB PDF)

Click here to go to the ACWW website

 

ACWW Study Topic 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) is RWNZ's topic of study for 2017. We have included an overview of the purpose of ACWW below, along with some links to further information.  Read More

The Justice and Electoral Committee is seeking feedback on the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill. RWNZ's submission fully supports the Bill and its intent to prevent forced marriages from occurring in New Zealand by requiring minors aged 16 and 17 to gain approval by the Family Court in order to marry.

In our submission, RWNZ cited various international conventions and declarations of which New Zealand is a signatory or party to that do not condone forced marriage. These include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). RWNZ expressed that the proposed amendment to New Zealand’s marriage law upholds New Zealand’s commitment to these documents.

RWNZ also noted that the law as it currently stands, which allows minors aged 16 and 17 to marry with parental consent, is insufficient in preventing forced marriage. The proposed amendment serves as a precaution to prevent parental guardians from attempting to facilitate a forced marriage.

As further information becomes available, this will be distributed to the members.

Click here to download the RWNZ submission.

Marriage Amendment Bill

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Justice and Electoral Committee is seeking feedback on the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill. RWNZ's submission fully supports the Bill and its intent to prevent forced marriages from occurring in New Zealand by requiring minors aged 16 and 17 to gain approval by the Family Court in order to marry. Read More