Zionist women’s groups have existed in Australia since approximately 1925. When Mrs. Simone Nathan of New Zealand visited Australia in 1927, she interested these groups in WIZO’s child welfare work, and some of them supported WIZO. One of the first fully fledged WIZO groups was ‘WIZO Ivriah’, created in 1935 by Mrs. Rieke Cohen who can truly be called the pioneer of WIZO in Australia. When Mrs. Ida Bension visited Australia in 1937 as emissary of the World WIZO Executive, she brought about the creation of the Australian WIZO Federation on a firm basis. The first President was Mrs. Ruby Rich-Shalit.
Membership: In 1941, WIZO Australia had 1,600 members. In 1970, it had approximately 6,000 members, in spite of the fact that there were several other women’s organizations which served as a deterrent to the slogan ‘Every Jewish woman a WIZO woman’. Groups are located in all five Australian states. They consist of well established groups of older women who have been the backbone of WIZO for many years, especially with regard to fundraising; and young married women’s groups.
Organization: The Federation Executive has chairmen for all departments, acting as counterparts of the parallel departments of the World WIZO Executive. These departments exist again on the State level. The Federal President or other office bearers of the Federation visit far away centers as often as possible, at least annually. This is of great value for the togetherness of WIZO Australia. The close liaison with the World WIZO Executive in Israel has become even more beneficial to the work in Australia, and it is noted with great satisfaction that whatever requests the Federation makes to Israel, replies come forward almost immediately.
World War II: The effect of Hitlerism on WIZO in Australia was indirect because of the geographical position of Australia, far away from the trouble spots. The Jewish community was never physically threatened, yet it has to be stated here that the influx of women from Nazi-persecuted countries gave WIZO an injection of new life-blood and many of WIZO’s leaders in 1970 were those who fled Nazi persecution before and after World War II.
WIZO in Australia is considered the strongest and most forward-looking Zionist organization in the country. The WIZO movement in Australia enjoys great prestige and is in the forefront of all endeavors of Jewish women in Australia, particularly in work for Israel.
Current Fundraising activities are aimed at renovating the WIZO Australia Day Care Centres : Raya Jaglom Day care Centre in Tel Aviv; Chorley Day Care Centre in Raanana: Rishon Le Tzion Day Care Centre Shikun Mizrach.
Each State organizes and conducts numerous fundraising, social and cultural activities for its members. A very small sample from the WIZO Australia calendar includes special events celebrating motherhood, Kidz for WIZO competitions, fundraiser by sale of the Monday Morning Cookbook, a sizeable delegation in attendance at the 25th World WIZO EGM in Israel, participation in local Israel Independence Day celebrations, Major Functions with Celebrity guest speakers.