Saturday, January 20, 2007

Listen well, my friend. Collectively, we are a voice to be heard.


Those of us living with various forms of dystonia including spasmodic dysphonia well know how other peoples’ impatience, though not intended to offend, can socially isolate us. Many of us experience feelings of rejection when our speech is misunderstood and also feelings of fear about speaking to those whom we do not know. We can learn much from a group of women who have overcome incredible adversity in its many forms. I refer to war widows’.

Yesterday, after writing my blog about Australia Day on January 26th, I thought about how proud I am of our Australian Service men and women, and of the great sacrifices they and their families have made. In turn, that got me thinking about how privileged I am to be a member of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia. The snowballing continued. I thought about how much Australian war widows’ have achieved through collectively advocating for their needs. By working together, any group of people with specific needs can achieve good things! I would like to tell you a little bit about the aims of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia (Queensland) Inc., and about the formation of the Guild.

AIMS OF THE GUILD

The aims of the Guild are to watch over and protect the interests of war widows such as lobbying our politicians for the ultimate benefit of the war widow. Also to provide friendship and comfort in times of need to those in similar circumstances, particularly in their time of loss of a partner. Together, as a body, we feel we can make a difference. Our motto is as relevant today as it was at the Guild’s formation 62 years ago -

“We all belong to each other
We all need each other
It is in serving each other
And in sacrificing for our common good
That we are finding our true life.”
(Extract from an Empire Day Message from His Majesty the late King George the Sixth)

From World War 1 until the Guild’s formation in 1945, there had been no appreciable rise in pensions and war widows were amongst the under-privileged members of the community. Realising that it was only by statutory means that they could regain their rightful status, the Guild continued to lobby the Commonwealth Government until the War Widows compensation was increased on a regular basis. It is now linked to 25% of the Male Total Average Weekly Earnings Index. Similarly with the need for hospitalization – war widows now receive this care through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (who have contracts for the care of veterans and war widows in hospitals throughout Queensland). These and other benefits, such as free optical and dental treatment, have given the war widow an independence previously lacking and the Guild continues to press for her rightful dues.

FORMATION OF THE GUILD

The War Widows’ Guild of Australia was formed in 1945 in Victoria by the late Mrs Jessie Vasey OBE, CBE, widow of Major-General George Vasey, a well known Australian Soldier. In 1947 a branch of the Guild was formed in Queensland, other States having been established in 1946. Later the State Guilds were federated and Mrs Vasey became the Federal President. Queensland has approximately 8,000 members.

(AIMS OF THE GUILD and FORMATION OF THE GUILD are extracts from an information folder provided to members when joining the Guild)

The War Widows' Guild continues to very successfully lobby the Australian Federal Government and also State Governments on behalf of war widows needs. It is my hope that you have gained a sense of the solidarity experienced by this group of strong women who have a history of challenging Governments for improved services and assistance needed for all Australian war widows. Their brave example offers inspiration to people belonging to other minority groups within society. I will post two further blogs about war widows. Firstly, about a great Australian woman, Jessie Mary Vasey, OBE, CBE 1897-1966, founder of the War Widows' Guild of Australia. Secondly, about the War Widows' Guild of Australia's Guild Badge. Both somewhat inspiring stories.

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