• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE1157

Porter, Una Beatrice

(1900 – 1996) Una Porter
  • Nationality Australian
  • Born 17 October, 1900, Melbourne Victoria Australia
  • Died 24 June, 1996, Melbourne Victoria Australia
  • Occupation Philanthropist, Psychiatrist


Una B. Porter (née Cato) was a renowned psychiatrist, philanthropist and devotee of the Methodist Church in Melbourne, Victoria. She was the first female member of staff at Ballarat Mental Hospital in 1946. In 1963 she was elected World President of the YWCA and travelled extensively. In recognition of her services to the community she was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961, and Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1968.


Una B. Porter was the youngest daughter of Fanny (née Bethune) and Frederick John Cato, prominent businessman and co-founder of the Moran & Cato grocery company, known for his generosity and commitment to the Methodist Church. From her parents Una inherited a deep and lasting Christian faith that would become the driving force behind her own career and philanthropic activities.

Though Una was forced to cease her formal education at the age of 14 owing to ill health, she returned to study at the age of 30, matriculating before gaining entry to the University of Melbourne as a medical student. There she specialised in psychiatry and trained at Prince Henry’s Hospital, the Royal Park Mental Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, before taking a post in 1946 at the Ballarat Mental Hospital where she was the first female member of staff, overseeing 512 female patients. She later worked in private practice and was instrumental in the establishment of a psychiatric clinic at the Queen Victoria Hospital, where she continued work in her retirement as Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist and counsellor for nurses.

In 1946 Una married James Roland Porter, an ex-RAAF squadron leader and lifelong friend.

Throughout her life, Una maintained a strong link with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and in 1963 was elected World President of this organisation. Her post, which she retained for four years, involved frequent overseas travel (including India, the Philippines, Europe, North and South America, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Greece, Africa and Israel), advising and encouraging local YWCA groups. In 1964 she was elected Woman of the Year.

Una’s philanthropic work was extensive. In addition to administering the F.J. Cato Charitable and Benevolent Fund together with the Cato Lectureship, and later the James and Una Porter Trust Fund, she made substantial personal donations to hospitals, universities and community organisations, notably the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Epworth Hospital, Methodist Ladies College, Cato College, Queen Victoria Hospital and of course the YWCA.

Una B. Porter was appointed O.B.E. (1961) and C.B.E. (1968) in recognition of her services to the community.


Published resources

Archival resources

  • The University of Melbourne Archives
    • Porter, Una Beatrice (1900-1996)
  • State Library of Victoria
    • Records, 1912-ca. 1970. [manuscript].

Digital resources

Related entries

  • Sister
    • Kumm, Frances Gertrude (1886 - 1966)
  • Related Organisations
    • Young Women's Christian Association of Canberra (1929 - )
    • Methodist Ladies' College (MLC), Melbourne (1882 - )
  • Presided
    • YWCA of Australia