She was heavily involved drafting and sub-editing of the Report on the Metropolitan Area of Adelaide, incorporating the innovative Development Plan of Adelaide, leading up to its publication in 1963. Buttrose had to ensure the report made sense as a whole.
In 1962 Buttrose enrolled in the inaugural Master of Town Planning degree at the University of Adelaide. As well as working full-time, she was a tutor in Town Planning at the South Australian Institute of Technology (now the University of South Australia) from 1966 to 1969. She graduated with her Master of Town Planning degree in 1972, with her thesis The Future of the Adelaide Hills.
In 1973 Buttrose became the first woman appointed as a Commissioner of the Planning Appeal Board, later in 1993 the Environment, Resources and Development Court in South Australia. She assessed and determined appeals from individuals or companies concerning their rights over land throughout South Australia. As a Commissioner she was responsible for writing judgements that might go on to further appeal to the Supreme Court in South Australia. This necessitated meticulous attention to detail, at the same time ensuring that a lay person could understand the reasons for the decision. Stroma Buttrose served in this capacity for more than twenty years, retiring in 1995.
Buttrose’s wide ranging interests were reflected in her early membership of the National Trust of Australia (SA Branch), the Victoria League, Zonta, and the Queen Adelaide and Lyceum Clubs which she felt broadened her outlook. Her many committee memberships helped her understand the importance of teamwork and to respect different points of view; the immense amount of work that a good chairperson puts into any organisation; the art of delegation; and the important art of active listening.
After finishing school Stroma Buttrose worked for a year as a common-law clerk in her father’s law practice in the City of Adelaide before enrolling in a Diploma in Arts and Education at the University of Adelaide. Following her graduation in 1950 she lived in London for six months with her parents and brother. Buttrose also hitchhiked in Europe, an experience that engendered a strong interest in the built environment. While on the four week sea voyage to London, she read two books - The Culture of Cities by Lewis Mumford and a book of metaphysical poetry – that proved to be influential in later life.
On her return from Europe in December 1951, Buttrose decided to study part time for an Arts degree in Geography at the University of Adelaide. From 1952 – 54 while undertaking the degree she worked full time as a secretary to the Head of the Department of Architecture at the School of Mines, now the University of South Australia. Buttrose then became a Geography teacher at St Peter’s Collegiate Girls School at North Adelaide from 1954 – 1956. Buttrose was also a Geography tutor for a year at the University of Adelaide. She graduated in 1956 with Honours with a thesis titled Market Gardening on the Lower Torrens Valley.
Because of her interest in the environment, Stroma Buttrose has bought and sold several properties improving either the land or the house or both. Notable amongst these was a small residential allotment at the Aldinga Arts Eco Village, about 45 kilometres south of Adelaide. The principles of the village incorporated care of the land, natural rainfall storage and design of buildings to suit the climate.
Stroma Buttrose is also a poet. She had her first public success in 1952 – winning the poetry section of the literary competition marking the 21st birthday of the University of Adelaide’s On Dit student newspaper with her poems ‘The Suez Land’, ‘Senses’ and ‘Three Months’. In November 1954 her poem ‘Man’ was published in the famous Ern Malley’s Journal. She gave public poetry readings of her own poems at the Writers’ Week festivals in Adelaide from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. In the 1970s she joined the Poets’ Union and the Australian Society of Authors.
In 1975 Adelaide publishers Rigby commissioned her to write City Planning in Australia a book for primary school children.
Buttrose wanted to challenge herself in a new field that was appealing for its creativity. Consequently, she undertook a twelve month course in pastel painting at the Adelaide Central School of Art in 1997. Music in various forms was also important to Buttrose – singing hymns at school, playing the piano, recorder and troubadour harp and for a very short time, a (terrified) conductor of a school house choir. In later life, she took up the challenge of being a foundation member of a newly formed choir. Buttrose was an active member of several performance music and movement groups. She has always enjoyed dancing particularly Scottish and folk dancing. It has taken about seventy years for her to realize that her greatest enjoyment is dancing and singing rather than playing an instrument.
Buttrose grew up on an extensive property, that had its own private sandhills, on the Brighton Esplanade in Adelaide. Her interest in planning and preserving the natural environment, stemmed from her long walks along the beach with her parents, watching the rain come across the sea and the sunsets from the verandah. Her father was a quiet, literature loving solicitor whereas her mother was extroverted and played the violin.
Initially Buttrose attended Hopetoun, a small local private primary school. Later she rode three miles to Woodlands Church of England Girls’ Grammar School at Glenelg. She attributes her early interest in reading and writing poetry, in geography and economic history and in the use of land to two teachers at Woodlands – Miss Mabel Hardy and Mrs Cowham – and to the head mistress, Miss Millington.
Contributed by Pauline McDonough
Buttrose, Stroma, Correspondence October 2011 – January 2012
de Berg, Hazel, interviewer, Conversation with Stroma Buttrose, transcript 24 February 1978, 22883; de Berg, Hazel Estelle (1913 – 1984); National Library of Australia.
Cockburn, Stewart, ‘High post for woman planner’, Adelaide Advertiser, 9 February1973, p.5