Scottish-born author Catherine Helen Spence's 1854 novel Clara Morison is a landmark in Australian literary history and has often been identified as the first work of fiction about Australia written by a woman. Eschewing the now more prominent iconography of the Australian bush, the novel focuses almost exclusively on domestic spaces and women's experiences. This article considers Spence's preoccupation with the domestic in relation to Edward Gibbon Wakefield's ideas of 'Systematic Colonisation'. In his writings Wakefield identified a crucial role for women in the development of the British settler colonies as wives and mothers. This article argues that Spence engages with this context by drawing upon the nationally figurative role of the marriage plot in contemporary writing to explore and complicate the gender roles which underwrote the development of Australia's first and only Wakefieldian colony.