Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Katherine Mary (Kate) Clutterbuck (1861–1946)

by Noël Stewart

This article was published:

Katherine Mary Clutterbuck (1861-1946), Anglican Sister, was born in Wiltshire, England, daughter of well-off county parents, Captain Clutterbuck and his wife. At 22 she joined the Kilburn Sisters and worked for seventeen years in London soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless. In 1901 Sister Kate and a colleague Sister Sarah answered a call from the Church in Western Australia. They arrived at Fremantle in December with twenty-two English orphans. It was very hot, they had to camp in a Fremantle hall, and money was scarce. However by the end of 1902 they had collected £250 and bought a 20-acre (8 ha) property at Parkerville in the Darling Ranges. This was partially cleared, well watered and close to a railway station; it had a shabby old barn to shelter them temporarily.

They cared for eight babies, rescued from baby farms, as well as their English charges; local people helped and cottages were built. By 1905 they were fostering forty-five children and next year a benefactor, Walter Padbury, built a large stone nursery. He also donated a carriage and horse, a 6000-gallon (27,277 litres) tank and 120 acres (49 ha) of land partially planted with fruit trees. The government gave an annual grant and, by 1911, 100 children lived in the Parkerville Homes. Two more Sisters had been recruited from England and a dining-room, schoolhouse and kitchen were built.

Sister Kate pioneered the cottage home system of child care in Western Australia. Most of her foster-children were with her from babyhood to maturity: they called her 'Mum' (later 'Gran') and came 'home' for holidays or when in trouble. Her face, with its smooth English complexion, radiated kindliness, and though not a big woman, she had a quiet strength that won her respect and confidence from young and old. Her own cottage usually housed the most difficult boys and one or two sick babies in cots beside her bed. Retiring by nature, she nevertheless was full of sympathy, understanding and good advice for her children. By 1933 they numbered 800. Ten of the eleven boys who had come from England served in World War I, several were mentioned in dispatches and six never returned. Their medals were sent to Sister Kate and she mourned them till her death. Sixty of her boys served in World War II. She retired from Parkerville in 1933 and was appointed M.B.E. next year.

Retirement did not suit Sister Kate. Encouraged by the Department of Native Affairs, she gathered a group of part-Aboriginal children about her in a small suburban house but later, with financial help from her close friend and associate, Ruth Lefroy, she purchased a large block at Queen's Park where she provided a happy, healthy environment for her charges. Some of her old Parkerville children helped and soon there were cottages, a kindergarten, a church and other amenities. By 1945 over 150 children had been sent to her and the commissioner for native affairs wrote in his annual report: 'There is no more deserving home in the State'.

Sister Kate was in hospital for only four days and, aged 85, she died on 31 July 1946. She was cremated. The children's homes that she had established still flourish.

Select Bibliography

  • The Story of the Children's Home at Parkerville (priv print, 1913
  • copy Battye Lib)
  • Sister Rosalie, Record of the Work of the Sisters of the Church (Perth, 1958)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Western Australia), 1947, 2 (16)
  • Australian Women's Digest, Oct 1946
  • West Australian, 1 Jan 1934, 20 Oct 1937, 19 Aug 1969
  • Swan Express (Midland Junction, Western Australia), 8 July 1976.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Noël Stewart, 'Clutterbuck, Katherine Mary (Kate) (1861–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sister Kate

Wiltshire, England


31 July, 1946 (aged ~ 85)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Places