For the first decade after the formation of Australian Church Women (ACW) in 1965, an annual national committee meeting was held and various national and state representatives were invited to attend.
At the 1966 national committee meeting, there were 30 participants. They comprised:
12 state representatives,
8 denominational representatives,
1 representative from the YWCA,
and 9 representatives from the Australian Council of Churches, including 3 men.
Eight years later, at the 1974 national committee meeting, approximately 65 attended to discuss the business of ACW and make plans for the next two years. Conference numbers had been growing as more state and territory members, not just delegates, were able to participate in this event. It was also decided at the 1974 meeting to hold biennial national conferences ‘as soon as practicable’ after the 1975 national meeting, which was held in August rather than the usual February. The first biennial ACW National Conference was held in July 1977, in Perth, and about 80 attendees are listed in the working papers and minutes.
Unfortunately, I do not have a group photo of the 1977 conference. The earliest group photo I could find is from the 1987 ACW National Conference held in Adelaide. See adjacent photo and click on it for a larger view.
I began to attend the national conferences in 2003, and it has been a rewarding experience. Apart from deliberating and planning the business of ACW, there is rich fellowship, unity in worship, in-depth Bible studies with renowned scholars, discussion of social justice issues and actions to be taken, and opportunities to meet with the recipients of scholarships, fellowships, grants and project funding that is facilitated through ACW. I’ve also heard exceptional guest speakers and learned much more about the worthwhile projects and programs that ACW supports locally, nationally and internationally.
Each national conference has been unique and well worthwhile attending. As a result of participating in these conferences, I have had my perspective broadened on the many avenues available for ministry to women and for women, and I look forward to the 2021 gathering in Adelaide.
My only concern about these conferences is that in recent years the costs for hosting a national conference have become almost prohibitive, as suitable and economical venues have been more difficult to find because accommodation and meal costs have soared. As for fees for public liability insurance, they’re simply eye-popping! For interstate members, there’s the additional costs of travel. I do wonder how much longer the members of non-profit organisations will be able to gather together nationally to celebrate their achievements, encourage one another and collaborate on future projects, before the burden of personal conference costs become too much for members.
ACW members and friends, if you have any photos of the early ACW conferences please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org,au