Heritage is about the things from the past which
are valued enough today to save for tomorrow.

Friends of Heritage Perth Event – Karrakatta Club

2 March 2018

Last night (1st March 2018) we held our first Friends of Heritage Perth event for 2018 at the historic Karrakatta Club.

The Karrakatta Club was established by the ladies of the St Georges Reading Circle in 1894.  The Club was the first women’s club in Australia and its objective was to bring women together for mutual improvement which they did by sharing their reading about literature, health and women’s rights, amongst other subjects. The first meetings were held on Tuesday afternoons in the Trinity Hall and then later in the Queens Buildings. In 1923 the Club purchased Dr Couch’s rooms at 186 St Georges Tce near King Street and extended and modified them for use by the Club.

BA533/427: Karrakatta Club sitting room, ca.1924 Image State Record Office

The Club’s founding secretary and later President was Edith Cowan who was Australia’s first female member of Parliament in 1921. The Karrakatta Club with Edith Cowan and along with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were pioneers of the suffrage movement in WA from the 1870s.  But it took some time…in 1893 a motion was moved in Parliament by Joseph Cookworthy but it was defeated – for 2 reasons – one because it was considered that being the first parliament in the British colonies to give women the vote might make them a subject of scorn but also because having social and political opinions might distract women from their duties in the home.  But finally in 1899 Premier Sir John Forrest introduced the Women’s Franchise Bill which was passed.

The club moved to its current premises in the Lawson apartments building in 1984. The Lawson Apartments was built in 1937 and was thought to be Perth’s first block of flats. The building included a restaurant, shared laundry, the Perth Club – a rival to the nearby Weld Club and 7 floors of residential apartments – with each floor having a different colour scheme. The residential flats had all the modern conveniences including telephones, gas stoves, electric power points and…a refrigerator. In the 1980s, after the Karrakatta Club had moved into the vacant club rooms, the residential apartments were purchased by a Perth developer who strata-title them and then sold them – within 7 days for about $7 million. Find out more about the  Lawson Flats on our Heritage Places Search 

Lawson Flats, corner The Esplanade and Sherwood Court, Perth 1972 Image State Library of Western Australia


Dr Roberta Jull was a founding member of the Club and first woman to set up medical practice in WA.  Gertrude Mead Vice President of the Karrakatta Club from 1912 -1914 was  the third woman doctor registered in WA and inaugural member of UWA senate.

When visiting the Karrakatta Club late last year and had a tour of the beautiful premises and the rooms they now make available for short stay accommodation, visit their website to find out more.  If you’re a member of the Karrakatta Club, you have reciprocal rights at a range of other Lyceum Clubs world wide.

The Club will also be open for our first Hidden Perth event on 13 May which will be a chance for people to discover some of Perth’s hidden places including Cathedral House (formally known as The Archbishop’s Palace) and The Bon Marche Arcade.