The establishment of the Older Women’s Network in Australia goes back to 1985 when a number of older women and workers in the NSW Combined Pensioners Association (CPA) made a bold decision to establish a network focused solely on older women and the issues that specifically concerned them.
With funding from the Family and Children’s Services Agency and the Myer Foundation, a pilot project was developed within the CPA called The Older Women’s Network Educational Program. Two project workers were employed in 1986 to research, design and conduct workshops for older women on a broad range of issues including health, housing and home maintenance.
At the completion of the one-year project in 1987, the Older Women’s Network was established as an ongoing, self-help group whose aim was to empower older women through participation in decision-making about issues that concerned them.
In 1988, a small grant was received from the Australian Women’s Weekly bicentennial project, Women Celebrate 88. Older women from the Older Women’s Network, Combined Pensioners Association and Women’s Liberation joined forces to write a series of satirical scripts and lyrics which they performed on the lawns outside Old Parliament House, Canberra. This event marked the beginning of the Sydney Theatre Group – often described as the jewel in OWN’s crown!
Another small grant was received in 1988 from the Consumer Health Forum to run a series of health workshops for older women. To this day, health and wellbeing remain central concerns for OWN members.
By July 2001, the Older Women’s Network (OWN) New South Wales was established as the peak body for OWN Groups across NSW. The aim of all OWN Groups is to promote the rights, dignity and wellbeing of older women. Groups organise a wide range of activities and advocate on issues of concern to older women.
There are 19 OWN Groups in NSW.
A national body, OWN Australia, was established in 1993 to act as a lobby group for older women and to liaise with other national women’s organisations. OWN Australia is coordinated by representatives from OWN groups in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland.
With a recurrent government grant from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, through the Office of Ageing and dedicated volunteer workers, the Older Women’s Network NSW Inc. has grown into a strong and dynamic organisation, managed and run on a day-to-day basis by older women volunteers.
The Older Women’s Network in NSW believes in a society rich in social capital, where mutual respect and trust are paramount, where diversity and debate are valued and where people and their networks have a legitimate voice.
For information about joining an OWN group or subscribing to OWN Matters, the monthly newsletter of OWN NSW, please contact the OWN NSW Coordinator.
Tel: (02) 9519 8044.