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Towards the end of 2003 a decision was made at a WWWMAV State Council meeting that the ladies would like a history of their association to ensure that in the future there would be a record of their organisation and their activities. My mother suggested (volunteered) that I should undertake the project so much of 2004 was spent reading the minutes, newsletters and other papers that had been kept (unfortunately minutes of the AGM prior to 1948 are missing). I also conducted a small survey of sample WWWMAV members as well as reading background material available in books and online about events affecting the lives of widows and widowed mothers during and after the First World War. In 2005 the Patriotic Funds Council arranged for the publication of War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association of Victoria: the first 82 years and copies were made available to members.
Although legislation such as the War Pensions Act 1914 paved the way for the payment of a pension to widows, and later widowed mothers dependant on their sons who died serving overseas, the pension was well below the basic wage and women with children, in particular, faced financial difficulties. A decision was therefore made to form an organisation to promote the cause of war widows and widowed mothers. Inintially, as stated in the WWWMAV constitution, the group worked towards attaining the betterment of pensions, amenities and concessions for war widows and widowed mothers and their families as well as the promotion of fellowship, interest and co-operation among members with help and advice wherever possible to the bereaved. This group has proved to be an important network. During and after World War II the WWWMAV quickly absorbed and assisted a new generation of widows and widowed mothers.
|Plaque in Birdwood Avenue, Shrine Reserve (Monument Australia)|
Caring and sharing can be seen as two major functions of the Association as the WWWMAV works as a support group for its members. Branches hold regular, often monthly meetings which may be followed by a speaker or a product demonstration. Bus trips to a variety of destinations have been a popular activity. In the past many groups also organised holiday trips for members. Branch anniversary and Christmas celebrations have also been important and well attended functions and in many cases have also been attended by members of neighbouring groups. Especially after the Second World War when the existing group membership was joined by younger members, often with young children, an annual Christamas Treat for the children was organised.
When WWWMAV was established visiting patients in repatriation hospitals was an important role of members. Members continue to visit their members who may be hospitalised and regularly check on the needs of members who are unwell. The WWWMAV has maintained a close association with Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital including members attending services at the hospital.
Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are special days of commemoration with members often attending services at the Shrine or services organised by their local RSL. An annual pilgrimage to the Shrine was a regular event. The WWWMAV branches work with their local RSL branches and also with local Legacy groups.
From the early 1950s WWWMAV funds purchased holiday homes at Rosebud and Olinda and later at Ferny Creek allowing members and their families the opportunity of affordable holidays. In 2004 ownership of the remaining homes at Rosebud was transferred to Carry On Victoria. Seventy-five thousand dollars was also been placed in a trust fund with the interest used for an annual nursing scholarship at Federation University, Ballarat.
Support, care and companionship remain key elements of the WWWMAV as well as providing information for members regarding benefits and services. At meetings and other functions it is never forgotten that the current members are widows of men who served in Australian forces.
The membership may be aging but the WWWMAV plays an important part in the lives of its members, providing the opportunity to form friendships and share experiences. To quote one of the members replying to the survey question - why she joined the Association - "Lovely club, wonderful girls, great friends."