This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
Winifred Kastner (1903-1987), community leader and welfare worker, was born on 29 June 1903 at Chesterfield, Derby, England, eldest of five children of Ernest Stubbs, engineers’ pattern-maker, and his wife Florence, née Blank. At 16 Winifred moved to Sheffield, where she studied at the local school of art and became a certificated arts and crafts teacher. In 1930 she migrated to Western Australia in search of better prospects. First she presented talks on handicrafts for a 6WF radio session popular with countrywomen. A foundation member in 1932 of the Country Women’s Association’s handicraft and home industries committee, that year she toured the outback demonstrating and promoting various arts and crafts on behalf of the CWA and 6WF. She also became involved with the Young Women’s Christian Association. On 3 December 1932 at St George’s Cathedral, Perth, she married with Anglican rites Eric Oscar Kastner (d.1975), a German-born taxi driver. They had one daughter.
In the 1940s Winifred Kastner was superintendent of the Metropolitan Emergency Service Corps of the Australian Red Cross Society. She enjoyed working with children and in 1945 set up handicrafts and library services at the Children’s Hospital (Princess Margaret Hospital for Children), Subiaco; she was later director of handicraft services. In 1950 she helped to establish and became a director of a kindergarten for emotionally disturbed, abused and underprivileged children run by the Child Welfare Department at the Government Receiving Home, Mount Lawley. Later recalling that this was her most important and satisfying work, she and her husband made special equipment and toys to provide the children with a sense of security and love. For some ten years from 1952 she was `camp mother’ at annual holiday camps for children with disabilities. On the committee of the Slow Learning Children’s Group of Western Australia from 1956, she was part-time (1958-61) and full-time (1961-66) welfare officer at the Irrabeena Diagnostic and Referral Centre—a challenging post that involved being on call for twenty-four hours and home-visiting. In 1956-59 she was president of the Kindergarten Union of Western Australia.
Mrs Kastner had joined (1940) the Women’s Service Guilds of Western Australia, a prominent feminist organisation; she served as State president in 1953-55 and 1969 and represented the guilds on the committees of many organisations. A founding member of the Swan River Pollution (Conservation) Committee (1948-54), she later remembered `countless Saturdays spent, covered with mud, clearing slush from the river around industrial buildings’. In 1952 she participated in a campaign for citizenship rights for Aborigines and in 1953 chaired a public meeting called by the guilds to establish the Association of Civilian Widows. She was a council-member of the League of Home Help for the Sick and Aged, Meals on Wheels and the Good Neighbour Council of Western Australia, a member (1948-78) of the Marriage Guidance Council of Western Australia (chairman 1958) and deputy-chairman (1974-77) of the Citizens Advice Bureau of Western Australia.
A justice of the peace from 1952, Kastner sat on the bench of the Married Persons’ (Summary) Relief Court for twenty-four years. She was president (1960-62) of the Women Justices’ Association of Western Australia. In the 1950s she was on the State council of the Girl Guides Association of Western Australia. Later she was president of the YWCA’s Retired Ladies Club. Over the years she attended several international conferences at her own expense, including the jubilee congress (1955) of the International Alliance of Women in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Winifred Kastner was a quiet and unassuming woman who worked energetically for her causes. She was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation medal in 1953 and appointed MBE in 1976. In later life she moved from her Mount Hawthorn home into Gracewood Lodge, Manning. She died on 10 February 1987 at Nedlands and was cremated. Her daughter survived her.
Dianne Davidson, 'Kastner, Winifred (1903–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kastner-winifred-12715/text22927, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 August 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007