The Rutte Family & Stirling Parrot Farm

Text and Images: Elisabeth Anderson

The parrot farm sign in Milan Terrace

Adriaan Rutte owned a large pheasant farm in The Netherlands before he and his wife Johanna brought their family of nine to Australia in 1958 to begin a new life in the Adelaide Hills. He had a great love of birds and eventually established new aviaries in Stirling with his 18-year-old son Gerry. The sign bearing the name STIRLING PARROT FARM became a familiar landmark in Milan Terrace.

The family on board the migrant ship the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

The Rutte family spent the first seven months of their new life at the Woodside Migrant Camp after stepping off the Overland Express from Melbourne at the Balhannah Railway Station. Jo was pregnant with her ninth child and, unlike her family, had made the train journey in a sleeper. She had not been the only migrant to be confused by the sign at the station and had only just managed to hastily alight before the train was once again on its way, Jo would later recall.

The Rutte family occupied three rooms at the camp. A serious outbreak of dysentery was the cause of great concern and assistant migrant chaplain Father Frank Manak of Stirling eventually helped them find the house in Milan Terrace which would become their permanent home.

Adriaan and Johanna on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary

Adriaan and Jo and their children worked industriously from the start. They were out in the fields picking blackberries and Hills daisies and ran a roadside stall. They sold recycled rags and copper wiring and conducted a service station at Eagle on the Hill, where they also sold potatoes as a sideline.  After completing their schooling the children obtained their own jobs, were married and settled in various parts of South Australia. The aviaries in Milan Terrace would keep Adriaan occupied well into his retirement and were eventually taken over for some years by son Gerry. Locals still recall the large plot of verdant green silver beet constantly maintained by the family to keep the birds fed.  

In their later years Adriaan and Johanna set up home nearby in Bilney Road. But even then, whilst no longer enjoying good health, they remained industrious and found great satisfaction in recycling the yarn from woollen pullovers for Jo to get busy with her crochet hook to create colourful wraps, about 200 over time, for the charity Wrap with Love.

Adriaan died in 1999, aged 83. Jo died in 2011, aged 93. Their many descendants now stretch over four generations.

One would have to agree it was a migrant life well lived. 

Do you have memories of the Rutte Family or the Stirling Parrot Farm? Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.