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Our History

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On 25th October 1914, over 150 women gathered in St Francis Xavier’s Hall in Wakefield St, Adelaide, ‘with the permission and under the patronage of His Grace Archbishop Spence.’   ‘Within eighteen months, it had more than 1000 members.’   Our first president was Abigail McMahon Glynn. The Catholic Women’s League in SA can justly claim to be the first ‘Catholic Women’s League’ organisation in Australia having been established along the same principles as the Catholic Women’s League in England, using its name since foundation and even being granted permission to use the English organisation’s logo. During World War I, the League in South Australia contributed to the war effort and associated relief work and, built a Recreation Hall for returned wounded soldiers, which was opened in early 1916 at a cost of £600.  The League was also involved in early ecumenism. 

In August 1916, Archbishop Spence opened the League’s St Mary’s Hostel and Club Cafe in Pirie St Adelaide.  Its business card advertised:

‘Light luncheons and Afternoon Tea served. Home cooking and prompt attention. Open 12 – 5 daily, also from 5 to 6.30 on Friday evenings. Accommodation for girls in business as resident boarders, also for country visitors.’

In 1918, CWL purchased much larger premises at 178 East Tce, Adelaide, which became the new St Mary’s Hostel, an accommodation facility for Catholic girls coming to Adelaide from the country for work, education or training.  Much good work was done at the Hostel, but by the early 1970s, the buildings were in need of repair and the number of boarders had fallen steadily.  After 56 years, St Mary’s closed its doors at the end of 1972.

At this time some of the younger members of the CWL, young mums at home with their children, saw a new need emerging—quality child care.  In December 1972, the Catholic Women’s League of South Australia Inc. applied to the Commonwealth Government for a grant to build a Child Care Centre on the site of the Hostel, one of the first of its kind in South Australia.  The Centre opened in February 1975.

For 36 years, CWL SA built up the Child Care Centre with many people making generous contributions of time, energy and finances.  We have always been proud of the service offered to children by the Centre.

Over the past 10 years, the child care scene has changed dramatically with greater involvement by State and Federal Governments. Operators of Child Care Centres are required to be familiar with Enterprise Agreements, Workplace Relations, Child Care Benefits and Subsidies, Staff/Child Ratios, Occupational Health Safety and Welfare issues, and much more. As such, we began to discuss the wisdom of having such a large responsibility on their shoulders and whether, with the Government now largely controlling the child care sector, we should put our energies into supporting other social concerns in our society.

So a new era began for CWL in South Australia on July 1st 2011, when the Christian Brothers’ College began operating the CWL Child Care Centre under Licence from the State Department of Education and Children’s Services.  We are confident that Christian Brothers’ College will continue to provide quality child care at the CWL Centre for many years to come.  Our focus will now be on other issues including the ‘Walking with Love’ programme, preventing the sexualisation of children, preventing domestic violence and providing practical support to young refugees in community detention.

Our new State Office was officially blessed and opened by the Most Rev Phillip Wilson DD JCL, Archbishop of Adelaide and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, on December 6th 2011.

We look forward with great hope to the possibilities this initiative generates.