WITH 8000 members at 400 branches under her control, you would think new Country Women's Association of NSW president Stephanie Stanhope might feel a bit daunted.
But instead the Nambugga (near Bega) mum and grandmother is feeling ready for the job and keen to make a difference in the lives of people living in rural and regional Australia.
"Living in a rural area I know what the challenges are. For example, we have a wonderful new hospital in Bega but patients still have to go to Canberra for some treatments," she told The Senior.
For nearly 100 years the CWA has been a voice for Australian women and an irresistible driving force for the rights of rural populations.
Members have worked to set up baby health care centres, fund bush nurses, build and staff maternity wards, hospitals, schools, and rest homes, they have lobbied and fund-raised, helped alleviate isolation and developed life-long friendships; and Stephanie believes the organisation is much the same today, it's just moving with the times.
"We are getting younger members and we're growing in urban areas - there is still loneliness and isolation in the city," she said.
"We're making our presence known, we're in the news and we're a safe place for women to come and express themselves."
The organisation also has a popular virtual branch with 30 members who meet online.
The former dairy farmer joined the Bega branch of the CWA NSW 13 years ago when the branch was in danger of closing down if it couldn't find a treasurer. Stephanie was the treasurer of her local church and volunteered to take on the office.
She knows her new job is a huge one - there are endless challenges facing rural and regional areas, not least of which is the current drought, but she is confident in the strength of the organisation's membership.
"We're an organisation made up of a lot of members but if we go forward with an issue, we go forward with one voice," she said.
"I've found great friendship with the women in the organisation and I'm always humbled by them."
There are CWA branches throughout NSW including several in city areas. To find out more: (02) 8337 0200. www.cwaofnsw.org.au