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The Country Women's Association Will Have A "Controversial" Debate On Marriage

“If anyone turns up expecting scones, they’re not going to get any.”

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The Victorian branch of the Country Women’s Association will discuss marriage equality at its next annual conference after the social issues committee moved a resolution in support of same-sex couples.

All 330 Victorian branches will have a say on whether the CWA "advocates for the equality of all Australians under the Commonwealth Marriage Act" at the organisation's state conference in Melbourne next weekend.

Victorian president Machelle Crichton told BuzzFeed News she has no idea if the resolution will succeed, but she looks forward to the discussion.

"People come to me and go 'You shouldn’t allow a vote on marriage equality'. And I say, ‘I don’t have the power to stop it. You have to allow the process to continue. It’s democratic. I’m not a dictator'."

But for every person who thinks the CWA shouldn't discuss marriage equality, there is someone who supports it.

"You go around and there’s lots of women who have a child who is gay, or a niece, or a family friend, or whatever," Crichton said. "Who knows, in this day and age?"

If the resolution passes, it will go to the next national CWA conference for consideration.

Despite the stereotypes of baking and knitting, the CWA is no stranger to addressing contentious social issues.

As early as 1936 the NSW conference discussed a resolution on equal pay for women. Last year the national conference resolved to write to the federal government asking that the GST be taken off sanitary pads and tampons.

Crichton said past conference discussions have been controversial, noting the Victorian CWA's call to reintroduce capital punishment in 1993.

She predicts the marriage equality resolution will be no different.

“I’ve got to sit there and keep a straight face. It’s going to be controversial.”

“People think [The CWA] is all about the scones and the jam and cream, but the work behind it is serious stuff," Crichton said. "Lobbying and advocating for women and children is the key object of the association."

"Food makes money, which funds the operation of the branches,” Crichton explained. “But then you get the labels, don’t you.”

The creative arts side of the CWA also has a feminist bent.

“[We] value women’s work, when society doesn’t. Society does not value a beautiful patchwork quilt,” Crichton said.

“The women in Picasso’s time would have made beautiful things. But who’s getting a million dollars for a painting?”

With ten resolutions to get through this year – last year the conference had six – time will be tight.

Other topics slated for discussion include speed limits being painted onto road surfaces, regional rail infrastructure, greenhouse gas emissions, and reform that would “encourage the production of handcrafted smallgoods”.

But Crichton warns, don't turn up to the conference expecting delicious baked goods.

“There’s no scones there, let me tell you. If anyone turns up expecting scones, they’re not going to get any.”

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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