Skip to main content

Saint Catherine (Catherine Hamlin)
, 2006

by Nigel Brennan

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

Catherine Hamlin AC (b. 1924), doctor, 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. The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospita was established by the Hamlins in 1974, and since then, the hospital and its offshoots have provided free treatment for more than 50,000 women. Following her husband’s death in 1993, Catherine Hamlin expanded the work of the hospital, lobbying and travelling extensively to raise funds for its clinical functions and training facilities. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is now a healthcare network with more than 550 Ethiopian staff sevicing six fistula hospitals, a rehabilitation centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives. Catherine Hamlin still lives in a cottage in the main hospital grounds. She has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2008
Accession number: 2008.52