Sister Kate was born to affluent parents, Captain and Mrs Clutterbuck of Wiltshire, England. Sister Kate had always shown a great deal of interest in helping those less fortunate than herself and, at the age of 22, she joined the Community of the Sisters of the Church where her first appointment was at an orphanage in Edgeware Road, London.
On 11 December 1902 the Orient Pacific RMS Oroya arrived at Fremantle with Sister Kate and Sister Sarah, travelling with an entourage of child migrants from the Orphanage of Mercy, Kilburn, London. These members of the Community of the Sisters of the Church had been sent from the Kilburn convent, by the Mother Superior, in response to an invitation from the Dean of Perth to establish a girl’s school and orphanage. Two Perth institutions are today a reminder of their pioneering work; Perth College, Mt Lawley and Parkerville Children and Youth Care.
The Sisters set about their work establishing a school, but were increasingly concerned about accommodation for the growing number of children in their care. Sister Kate had her sights set on establishing an orphanage away from the city.
Their goal was to find an area for the children to grow and develop. In the minds of the sisters “The environment in which the little ones are placed must be as perfect as possible in purity and brightness for the sake of the body, the mind and the soul of the child”.
In May of 1903, the Sisters found an 18 acre block of land in Parkerville. They purchased this land for £280 (pounds). At the time of purchasing the property, the population of the Parkerville area was 200 people.
The Sisters believed this was the ideal spot for the children and the country air would strengthen the constitutions of young children and make them healthier.
The Community of Mundaring was very supportive to the children or “waifs” as they were known and the Sisters, but none better than a Mr Walter Padbury, one of Western Australia’s greatest colony builders, who represented Swan District in the Legislative Council and became first Mayor of Guildford. Walter had an inauspicious start to his young life when he was orphaned at 11 years of age and was left to ruthless treatment from fellow settlers, bestirred with mental cruelty.
In making his own way within the community, he worked as a builder’s labourer, servant, roustabout, barman and shepherd. He cleaned out stables and pigsties. He was a contract fencer, then a cattle and sheep trader and overlander, before he ventured into politics. He was the colony’s first millionaire and one of Australia’s first and most significant philanthropists.
When the Sisters first arrived, the property consisted of a single hut and a barn. In September 1905, when Walter became aware of the situation at Parkerville, he employed a builder and members of the local community to build a brick house there, large enough to house 35 to 40 waifs. His action was a catalyst for further Community response. Washing machines and other machinery were provided, 100 fruit trees were planted, and a 6,000 gallon water tank was built, along with a baker’s oven.
A second brick house was built by the locals and a nursery was quickly established, but the spirit Walter had inspired in the local community now spread to larger authorities. In 1906, the government provided assistance to Parkerville, following intervention by Walter with Governor Bedford. There occurred a grand opening of two brick dwellings with 600 visitors finding their way to the Waifs Home.
The whole State of Western Australia had been roused into interest and anxiety with regard to the question of unwanted children. People in the community no longer shut their eyes to the dreadful fact that, through indifference, neglect or cold blooded cruelty, many innocent little lives were being sacrificed. The State Children’s Bill was introduced to Parliament and the work at Parkerville Children’s Home was a catalyst for its documentation.
A kind, considerate, upright man, Walter Padbury, held the respect of the local community and the State. He made an outstanding contribution to Western Australia, but was never ashamed of his humble origin. Always keenly interested in the welfare of children, he proved to be a great friend and benefactor to Parkerville. The history books of this community of the Shire of Mundaring are littered with acts of support and kindness to the Waifs Home and so the roots of a strong community relationship were planted.
The Sisters set great values on the loving environment of family life. It was, therefore, their intention that the homeless and orphaned children in their care would receive as near to this as possible. The beautiful setting of the Parkerville bush goes a long way to providing this ideal. Sister Kate introduced the concept of cottage homes, in which a cottage mother cared for a number of children in a single house. Each child was seen as an individual, with different needs and abilities. Every child had the potential to succeed in life given the right opportunities and environment.
Education of the children followed through from nursery to kindergarten and on to school. The Home also trained girls for service in the houses of wealthy Perth residents and ran a farm on which the older boys acquired skills which would gain them future employment.
Sister Kate wanted the children to attend the local school but, due to major difficulties with overcrowding, it was decided that a government teacher be sent to the home each day. To begin with the children used their beds as desks, until 1909 when a school building was erected.
The Sisters were concerned to make worship an enjoyable experience for the children and a chapel was considered an essential part of the Home. It was only five and a half years after the Sisters bought the land that the foundation plaque was laid on a tree stump and by 1909 the construction of the chapel was complete.
From those early beginnings solid philosophies were established and remain the basis of the work conducted at Parkerville Children and Youth Care today.
You can visit our archived website at http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-100423.