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Devoted to family and QCWA

WOMAN ON THE LAND: Shirley Erhardt’s whole life has been devoted to family and of course, the QCWA
WOMAN ON THE LAND: Shirley Erhardt’s whole life has been devoted to family and of course, the QCWA Linda Mantova

A KEEN horse rider from a young age, Shirley Erhardt has devoted her life to her family and the Queensland Country Women's Association (QCWA).

Nowadays she can't remember the last time she was on horse, but recalls riding every day of her life up until marrying her husband, Allan, in 1962, and moving to their family's cattle and cropping enterprise, "Ravenlea", located between Clifton and Allora.

Growing up on a farm near Nobby, Shirley has fond memories of riding her horse through neighbours' paddocks to the Back Plains State School, and competing in barrel races at local sports days.

Always a country girl, Shirley, today is a long serving member of the QCWA, having joined the Victoria Hill branch in 1966.

"I joined CWA because Allan was away so much with work. He went contract harvesting soon after we were married and I stayed at home and had our three children - Brett, Leanne and Anita," Shirley said.

"I have been in it (CWA) ever since, and only had a period of five years when I didn't hold a position in the organisation," she said.

This year Shirley notches up her 45th year in CWA, and during that time she has served three terms as president of the Victoria Hill branch, and has embarked on a fourth term this year.

She has also been secretary on four occasions, vice president for two years, and held the position of treasurer for two terms. Shirley is also the current press secretary for the Border Division of QCWA, and has been Dressmaking Convenor for two terms at divisional level.

At State level, Shirley has been Dressmaking Convenor and was secretary of Dressmaking in the late 1990's.

"The only position I have never held is that of International Officer, but my daughter, Leanne Farrell, is International Officer of the Yangan branch," Shirley said.

"I have made lifelong friends through CWA and it's the friendship that I treasure most throughout the years," she said.

Shirley is also a keen participant in CWA competitions, including the Country Woman of the Year quest, which she has contested on a number of occasions.

Her greatest success was making it to State Finals as the Border Division Country Woman of the Year in 1999.

"I did no good at the State level, but that same year I won a dressmaking award for After Five wear at the State Finals," she said.

"I only ever once got to State level with my cooking, and that was at the Mt Isa conference. I really enter my cooking at branch level to make up the numbers, but I'm not a competition cook. I've also had my Floral Art judged at State on one occasion."

Shirley firmly believes she will be a "CWA lady" forever.

"I thought about giving it away once when the kids were small, but I'm glad I didn't - I just love it," she said.

A Sunday School teacher also, Shirley has had a long involvement in the local Anglican Parish, as well as helping organise the Clifton Anglican Debutante Ball over many years.

She is a self-taught seamstress, and made all her children's clothes when they were younger.

Shirley's other passion is her sport, especially tennis.

"I've played tennis all my life, and have also played netball and indoor cricket, but not in my latter years."

She has also played an integral role in the family's 250 hectare farming business, incorporating grain crops and steer fattening.

"I've always helped Allan with the cattle, and have even driven the tractor, but got into trouble for my crooked rows," she laughed.

"I wanted to be a nurse - that was always my ambition, but I only did my scholarship, left school and went home to work on my parents' farm at Nobby."

Despite her limited schooling, Shirley has undertaken study since leaving school, including gaining her Certificate IV in Health and Community Services - Diversional Therapy, through the Bremer TAFE at the age of 53, during which time she worked as a Diversional Therapist at the Clifton Hospital.

In her younger days, Shirley was also accepted into a position as an air hostess, but chose love instead, deciding to marry and stay in the bush.

"I have always loved travel, and have visited many countries as well as large parts of Australia," she said.

"I married Allan when I was 19, and I have no regrets. I have been blessed with three children and eight grandchildren, as well as a wonderful daughter-in-law, Barb, and two cheeky son-in-laws, Phil and Dave," she said.

Shirley believes she has many things to be thankful for, including a close knit family, good friends and a strong faith, and wouldn't change her life on the land for one moment.

Topics:  equestrian qcwa queen of the paddock