Esteemed Citizen and First Female Councillor in Altona

On the 11th April 1965, the Altona community heard the sad news of the death of Mrs Catherine McIntyre at the young age of 52. Catherine had been ill for some time and had passed away whilst being treated at the Mercy Hospital.

The following is an excerpt from the Altona Star newspaper published Wednesday 14 April 1965.

Born in nearby Williamstown, in 1913 – Catherine Margaret Mary Grieve, she spent all her life in the Altona district, except for periods away on nursing duties and travel. She was a member of the Catholic church, for some years a councillor, was widely interested in the welfare of local people and by her active support she assisted many worthwhile bodies in Altona. At the same time she endeared herself to many by personal kindnesses and understanding.

From its inception in 1942, she was a great benefactor to the Catholic parish in Altona. Apart from liberal donations from the McIntyre family, the further development of the church owes much to her guidance. For example, the acquisition of land for St Paul’s Boys College and St Joseph’s Girls College was largely due to her business acumen, as also was other church land just acquired at Laverton.

Mrs McIntyre was of course the first and only lady councillor in Altona. She was an elected member of the first council of the Shire of Altona and attended the first meeting in June 1957. She was re-elected in August 1957 until her term of appointment expired in August 1960.

The council gave her a testimonial at the time which recorded her diligence to council activities and her keen interest in matters municipal had assisted the council and the administration of the municipality to a great degree. Her drive and interest assisted in the creation of the Home Help Service in March 1960, and the building of the Elderly Citizens Club rooms at Logan Reserve during 1960. In 1958 Mrs McIntyre was granted leave of absence by the council to make a world trip, which included a visit to Altona in Germany. A woman with a lively and inquiring mind, she set about finding links between her home town
and its namesake and to establish some more permanent contact. In Germany she saw that women played an important part in civic life, and it was her aim to see more women in Australia interested in public life.

She was the first president of the Elderly Citizens Welfare Committee and was at times a member of the Altona Hospital Committee, Ladies Auxiliary and the Altona Red Cross. She was a member of the ladies section of the Altona Bowling Club, a member of Kooringal Golf Club and the Past Nurses Association of St Vincent’s Hospital.

Mrs McIntyre was one of a pioneer family, the Grieve family, which farmed a property north of Kororoit Creek Road for a number of years. In accordance with council policy that streets and roads be named after pioneer and leading citizen families, the name of Lily Street was changed to Grieve Highway* a few years ago.

A widow for a number of years, Mrs McIntyre is survived by her daughter, Mary. To many in Altona who regarded her as a friend Mrs McIntyre’s passing will be a personal loss which cannot be filled.

* Grieve Parade was originally named Grieve Highway when it was anticipated the north and south sections would eventually be linked.

First Female Councillor Elected in Altona

Altona’s independence from Werribee, became official on 20th February 1957 which called for the election of members of the inaugural Altona Shire council. Elections were held on May 11 1957 where nine local citizens were elected to administer the affairs of the new Shire. The following is a photograph of those councillors.

Seated l-r: E. Fred Rush, H. C. Kim, G. H. Ransom, R. Logan, Mrs C. McIntyre

Rear l-r: A. H. Ford, A. W. Langshaw, R. J. Cooper, W. G. Cresser

The Altona Shire Pictorial was an eight page newspaper published in 1957, prior to the first
council elections for the newly created Shire of Altona, to be held on Saturday, 11 May 1957.
The newspaper focussed on the development of the Altona township and the forthcoming council
elections including letters from the candidates on why they should be elected. Catherine McIntyre
was one of those candidates and the following is her letter from page six:

Mrs CMM McIntyre

[Catherine Margaret Mary McIntyre]

Dear Sir,

As one whose grandparents were pioneers in the shire and having had a father born and resident in the district all his life, later to have been one of the first three councillors elected to the “New Altona Riding” and still later to become president of that shire, my feelings and reactions were those of pride and pleasure on hearing the news of the declaration of our area as a shire.

Being a trained nurse with an intimate knowledge of infant welfare, health and hospital matters, and in view of my social activities with various charitable organisations, I can say that I am vitally concerned in the wants of our women folk.

At the onset of hostilities in 1939, I was engaged as a nursing sister with Munitions Department at Maribyrnong until the death of my father in 1941, when I then undertook the responsibilities of primary production in this district aided by five Land Army girls. Through this venture I claim knowledge and experience of business method and procedure, therefore it is natural for me to have the urge to offer my services as a candidate in this very important election in order to assist in carrying on the progress achieved.

Having resided in the district all my life, and being actively associated with my father and his colleagues, I know the district thoroughly within and out[side] its boundaries. I have a very clear knowledge of what has been achieved and is to be achieved still. Given firstly, the opportunity to represent them and then with the support of ratepayers and residents, I aspire to gain the wholehearted support of the new Altona council, plus that of parliamentary representatives who are to be made more aware of the ever growing importance of Altona and its potentialities.

To my mind, present day women have a challenging and difficult role. Challenging because it is relatively new, and difficult because of their duties, responsibilities and in Altona, pioneering hardship. It is therefore most essential that a woman be given the opportunity to voice and stand up for women’s privileges morally and civilly as I intend doing if being elected. As a woman and prospective councillor, I realise new industries in Altona are important to bring prosperity to our door.

Making of roads, streets and guttering are an urgent need. Giving priority to footpaths, as women with their prams, plus small children on foot should be given the safety that is their right, instead of being forced to use a dangerous roadway.

Nobody is more conscious of the high infections risk being forced on the people of Altona and districts, through the lack of proper sanitation and the lack of drainage in low lying areas. Again, as a nurse I realise the grave and urgent consideration which must be given to speeding up our approach to the Hospital and Charities Board with regard to our Altona Hospital.

Under its present capable management it is doing a splendid service, but we require much more assistance from the government before it can be considered a public benefit.

Further assistance to baby health care centre, kindergarten, schools and scholarships, with an eye to a secondary or high school in the district in the very near future is also important.

Mental relaxation for elderly people in our district is a must. Therefore it is imperative that some recreative venue be opened for them. Invaluable service is rendered by our life saving club, and encouragement should be given to them by the council in a material way, such as assistance with their new club rooms.

Newspaper space being limited, I must briefly outline some of the other essentials:-

  • All roads and streets to be made
  • Continuance of foreshore work with assistance of MMBW
  • Opening of Nellie Street [Civic Parade] so that buses may service the complete Altona area
  • Provision for adequate shopping facilities in all areas
  • Development of recreation reserves

In conclusion, when referring to our Altona shire, separate rights of Altona, Brooklyn, West Newport and Seaholme will each be given detailed attention at all times.

Yours sincerely,
(Mrs) Cath McIntyre

 

For additional information on Catherine McIntyre – https://alhs.com.au/local-history/politics/shire-of-altona/

 

Cath McIntyre was duly elected remaining a councillor for the full term until 1960 when she retired.
Cath became seriously ill soon after then and passed away in 1965.

  • Council elections first held on 11 May 1957
  • Shire of Altona proclaimed on 29 May 1957  
  • First council meeting held 5 June 1957 in Altona Homestead

References:

  1. Archives – Altona Laverton Historical Society Inc.
  2. Altona Star newspaper 14 April 1965.

Research by: Ann Cassar