Title of photograph:  ‘1923-Sister Catherine and her shack. West Camp’

A brief note written by Gippsland historian, Linda Barraclough regarding this photograph stated: “Sister Catherine Bennett in her ‘part hut, part tent shack’ at Yallourn, 1923. It was built for her by the men soon after her arrival, utilising discarded packing boards.” Original source of this photo: Rev P.H. Dicker Collection, Anglican Diocese of Gippsland.


  • Catherine Eva Bennett was born at Mile End, East London in 1888.
  • Catherine served as a nurse, with the Red Cross, during the Great War. There is a suggestion that Catherine also served in Serbia in 1919.  
  • In 1921, Catherine immigrated to Australia.
  • Catherine was appointed, by Bishop George Harvard Cranswick (St Paul’s Cathedral, Sale) to commence duties, as an Anglican Medical Sister, in the Yallourn area in 1923…

“According to Archdeacon Ray Elliott in his The Deaconesses of Gippsland, Sister Bennett was appointed to Yallourn in 1923. Her work before that, presumably in the Diocese of Gippsland, is currently unknown.

He writes that Sister Bennett took up residence in a "part hut, part tent shack", built by the men to serve as a residence and clinic.

The church was unable to support her financially, so she lived on her own means until a fund was established into which the miners paid two shillings a week. “Her job was to look after the medical needs of a community, which because of its crude housing and living conditions had more than its fair share of sickness”.

At Yallourn she was also working with the newly appointed Reverend Percy Hensby Dicker, whose photographs of her in Yallourn provide another dimension to the few details we have for Catherine.” Source: Linda Barraclough. Author and historian.

  • Illness throughout the community at Yallourn was common; and often stemmed from the harsh living conditions and poor hygiene in the camps. Unfortunately, funds were paltry; and in an attempt to overcome a shortage of medical resources,  a Church Nurse Fund was established to assist Catherine’s noble work in the settlement.
  • In January 1925, Catherine married Rev. Walter Asbury Smith at St John’s Church in Yallourn. According to Yallourn’s eminent historian, Prue McGoldrick, the people of Yallourn and district took up a collection, of one hundred pounds, and presented it to Catherine as a farewell present and a token of their appreciation for her selfless devotion to others.
  • In that same year, a meeting was called at the Mess Room at the West Camp to urge the SEC to appoint a resident doctor to the town. This meeting would, in time, lead to the appointment of Dr James Moore Andrew to the position of Resident Medical Officer at Yallourn.

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