Bowls NSW in the ‘dark ages’
URBENVILLE is an unlikely place for a revolution.
But the town's little bowling club is waging a David and Goliath struggle for its survival, which threatens to spark a chain reaction through other rural bowling clubs.
The issue concerns whether women can enrol themselves as members of Bowls NSW, as men do.
NSW is the only state in Australia where discrimination between men and women still exists at all levels of administration. Queensland opted to amalgamate its clubs and peak body eight years ago.
At stake in the affair is the long-term survival of the tiny Urbenville club, say its 10 men and 8 women members.
Club president Danny Mulcahy and women's president Colleen Scofield said the club was too small to administer the two smaller separate clubs divided along gender lines.
It struggles to field teams to play in the men's away tournaments, where some other clubs allegedly "frown upon" women joining in.
Female members of NSW clubs also have to pay two sets of membership fees: one to their parent club, and another to the NSW Women's Bowling Association; while men pay only a single fee which is $20 less per year.
In a letter Bowls NSW last week, the club said if enough lady bowlers were to join as regular RNSWBA members, it might steer the NSW Women's Association towards amalgamation, "which we all want".
"If that is unconstitutional, perhaps it is time for changes to the constitution," it proposed.
The club also pointed out the "ridiculous" situation that official women's bowls tournaments only occurred on weekdays when many of them were in full-time employment and only available on Sundays, when men's tournaments were held.
The club wrote that it was making the request "in view of current anti-discrimination laws".
In a show of defiance, the club has already invited women players to join men's weekend tournaments to make up the numbers and was amalgamated "in all but name" with women holding senior positions on the club board for several years.
"We've got to do this for our survival," Mr Mulcahy said.
Members said the move could be a spark that ignites a seachange among other rural clubs struggling to stay afloat, and in turn Bowls NSW.
But there's an easy solution if Bowls NSW fails to come to the party. The club will transfer to Queensland where 12 of its closest 14 clubs exist within an hour's drive.