Woman Clutterbuck, Katherine Mary
- Child Welfare Worker and Religious Sister
- Alternative Names
- Clutterbuck, Kate
Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University
Kate Clutterbuck was born in England in 1861, the daughter of prosperous county family. At 22 she joined the Anglican religious order, the Kilburn sisters, and in 1901 was posted to Western Australia where she established the Parkerville Home for Children.
Clutterbuck is credited with pioneering the cottage system in Western Australia, heading a group of four sisters caring for up to 100 children. Beginning with the 22 children who had accompanied her from England, and what she described as 'a shed which would be disdained by any self-respecting English cow' she constructed a children's village that became a model of its kind (West Australian, 26 June 1934). She inspired great loyalty amongst her fellow workers, but was not always comfortable with the hierarchy of the church, who eventually forced her retirement from Parkerville in 1933. Her departure came as a 'terrible shock' to former residents who argued that Sister Kate embodied the essence of Parkerville. 'In losing Sister Kate', one wrote, Parkerville residents 'lose everything ... the very least that should have been done ... was that she should have been able to live on at the Parkerville Children's Home, surrounded by the love and care of those for whom she has done everything that a mother could do' (West Australian, 2 June 1933).
Undeterred, Clutterbuck quickly found a new cause, establishing a home for Aboriginal children of mixed descent, independent of church control. Much of the support for the new work came from former residents or supporters of Parkerville (West Australian, 26 June 1934). Encouraged by the Department of Native Affairs, the work expanded from her small cottage to become a children's home which was central to the Department's assimilation program. Although she played a key role in facilitating the removal of Indigenous children Clutterbuck never expressed any doubts about the rightness of her actions. Later historians have tended to be critical of Sister Kate's complicity (Haebich) but those who lived or worked with her tend to be more sympathetic (Oral History Collection).
In her work, Clutterbuck enacted the goals of maternalist feminism, positioning herself and her co-workers as 'mothers' to children whose mothers had been judged unfit to provide them with care, accessing for themselves a form of motherhood outside the bounds of conventional marriage. News reports acclaimed her as the 'mother to a thousand children', (Sunday Times, 29 September 1935) and she used her fame to attract regular donations to her cause, making regular reports through Perth newspapers which always included an appeal for help. However, she came to resent the expectations that woman did not need to be adequately remunerated for their work and that Indigenous children could be cared for more cheaply than those she had provided for at Parkerville (Jacobs, 291-3).
When Sister Kate died in 1946 many of the children who had grown up in her care placed tributes in the local press to the woman they had known as 'Mum' or 'Gran' ( West Australian, 2 August 1946). She had been awarded the MBE in 1934, following her retirement from Parkerville, and was remembered in the name of the second home which was popularly known as Sister Kate's.
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- Edith Willoway interviewed by John Bannister in the Bringing them home oral history project, 13 December 2000, ORAL TRC 5000/265; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Gerard Warber interviewed by Lilly Kauler in the Bringing them home oral history project, 20 September 2001, ORAL TRC 5000/334; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Kathleen Mack interviewed by John Bannister in the Bringing them home oral history project, 16 January 2001 - 18 January 2001, ORAL TRC 5000/215; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Ken Lindley interviewed by John Bannister in the Bringing them home oral history project, 27 November 1999, ORAL TRC 5000/72; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Haebich, Anna and Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Broken circles: fragmenting indigenous families 1800-2000, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, Western Australia, 2000. http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn1854266. Details
- Jacobs, Margaret, White Mother to a Black Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940, University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Details
- Whittington, Vera, Sister Kate: a life dedicated to children in need of care, University of Western Australia (UWA) Publishing, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1999. Details
- 'To the Editor', The West Australian (Perth, Western Australia), 2 June 1933, p. 20. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32479583. Details
- 'Woman's Realm', The West Australian (Perth, Western Australia), 26 June 1934, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32946234. Details
- 'Mother to a Thousand Children', The Sunday Times (Perth, Western Australia), 29 September 1935, p. 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58742695. Details
- 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, Western Australia), 2 August 1946, p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46161474. Details
- Stewart, Noël, 'Clutterbuck, Katherine Mary (1861 - 1946)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (ANU), c.2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/clutterbuck-katherine-mary-5691/text9619. Details
- Ken Lindley interviewed by John Bannister in the Bringing them home oral history project
- 27 November 1999
- National Library of Australia
- National Library of Australia Oral History Collection