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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Saint Catherine (Catherine Hamlin)

2006
Nigel Brennan

type C photograph on paper (frame: 85 cm x 113 cm, image: 59 cm x 88 cm)

Catherine Hamlin AC (née Nicholson, 1924–2020) graduated from the University of Sydney in 1946 and went to work at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, where she met fellow doctor Reginald Hamlin. In 1958, the couple answered an advertisement in the Lancet calling for doctors to establish a midwifery school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There they developed a surgical technique to repair horrifying – though relatively common – cases of obstetric fistula, opening a clinic dedicated to this endeavour in 1961. In 1974, they established the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Since then, the hospital and its offshoots have provided free treatment for more than 50,000 women. Following her husband's death in 1993, Hamlin expanded the work of the hospital, lobbying and travelling extensively to raise funds. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is now a healthcare network with more than 550 Ethiopian staff servicing six fistula hospitals, a rehabilitation centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives.

Photo-journalist Nigel Brennan photographed Hamlin in 2006 at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, at the entrance to the operating theatre named for her late husband. Three years later Brennan was taken as a hostage by militants in Somalia, who held him captive for 14 months. He later returned to Ethiopia, taking photographs for a calendar to support Hamlin’s work.

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2007 Finalist

Purchased 2008
© Nigel Brennan

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Nigel Brennan (age 34 in 2006)

Catherine Hamlin AC (age 82 in 2006)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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