I’m surprised that you would want to photograph me when I’m almost 80 years old.
I enjoy my family, they are my favourite thing. As I’m on my own, music would be my second favourite thing, particularly listening to ABC classic FM. My third would be lunching out with friends.
I came to Canberra in 1955; I was 19 and single and came to join the public service. I stayed in Havelock House on Northbourne Avenue, one of the more expensive hostels. It was a great place to meet people. I met my husband there.
There was only one place to go out for dinner, a hotel on Northbourne, I think where the Rex is now. The ultimate was to be asked out to the hotel for dinner with its double-sided fire places.
I worked in the Public service for 5 years. In those days when women got married it was the end of their public service careers. We moved to the eight story flats, then to the Northbourne flats and then bought a block of land to build a home on. We used to go on family holidays and have a week at the snow and a week at the beach.
When I had had four children, I decided to get a qualification and studied librarianship part time over four years. I got a job at the National Library of Australia totally expecting to only work for a couple of months as I didn’t know how I would cope with school holidays, but I was still at the National Library sixteen years later. I think we had a good time, towards the end there were a lot more cuts and efficiency dividends.
I think Canberra is safer than Sydney, and it’s much easier to get around in terms of transport—I have a friend nearby and if we go to dinner we can still both walk home and feel safe. There are also so many activities you can do in Canberra: exercise classes, University of the Third Age and for me, visiting family nearby.
It’s easy to maintain your health and wellbeing in Canberra because of all the opportunities for the gym and for exercise classes. The closeness to everything helps too and using busses, which are now totally free for me. I think it would be harder if you lived further out but I can get to Civic quickly now. As people get old you need more medical appointments and we have doctors and can get to appointments fairly easily here.
It is tricky to answer what it means to me to be a woman. I don’t think you are as free as a man, particularly when you are single, you can’t just go out as easily. Also, in such a political place, women have to juggle careers and family and manage everything. Perhaps because things are so easy to do in Canberra kids enrol in so many extracurricular activities that everyone can end up doing too much. I use to spend all my Saturdays ferrying kids around in every direction.
It is nice having grandchildren though, and I think that is easier for women.
My perfect day would include going for a morning jog and walk with friends, perhaps my walking group friends. Then go and get coffee, and then go out to lunch somewhere nice. I would then go to a concert, like the other day I went to the Austrian club for an amazing concert. Then I guess dinner with family. There is always something on in Canberra with the national institutions, we are so lucky, maybe I would have coffee there.
Describing myself now: well, I’m sitting here in the sun with friends. At this time of life I’m enjoying grandchildren and am about to have some visitors from Sydney today on their way to the snow. I have been on two overseas tips this year which is unusual for me. It is a pretty good time of life.
Image created by Liz Thompson