Friday, 15 July 2011

Why I Came to Canberra

Yes, I admit it. It was mainly Ian - shy or not, who could resist that lovely blonde hair (and there were rumours he'd soon be a Clerk Class 11).

What I find specially baffling about these pictures is that I know from the text that I must have been here then - there's a mention of Woden Plaza and I can remember the excitement (yes, it was a big event - we went from school in the lunch hour, just to have a look) of its opening. Yet, I don't recall people looking quite as ludicrous as this mob. Perhaps they were all locked up in their offices, while by that time I led my life almost exclusively in the enchanted glades of the ANU.


  1. The Canberra Times has hurt feelings because the brochure pictured above has been dug up:
    Canberrans can be very sensitive people - so I suppose I shouldn't mention that these days an alarming number of them have swapped wide lapels and flares for lycra. I preferred the earlier incarnation, all things considered (even though, as I already mentioned, I can't actually remember ever seeing it in the flesh)

  2. Extraordinary. I'm expecting to see Marriane Faithful, Peter Wyngarde and a lava lamp on the next page. "3 young girls in Camberra, a typist, a stenographer and a secratary" - not much diversity of employmemnt opportunities, then.

  3. Thanks for posting these snippets of 70s Canberra. I remember the allure of the place well and I think I was lured to the place by something like this.
    I remember living at one of the pictured hostels following my move to the nation's capital encouraged at first by Gough Whitlam's promise that if a person "worked in his government he or she would be allowed six hours off per week to study and if he or she worked for his government for two years he or she would be also be guaranteed a free University education and allowance to do so".
    Also some mad poly-technic has offered me a place in their writing school the year before I repeated my final year of schooling! I think I submitted an essay or a story. At least somebody wanted me after I failed to pass physics, chemistry and mathematics in my first go at my final year at school.
    So it was Whacko off to Canberra. After one and half years either as a postman or carrying the suitcase full of cash to pay all the GPO workers in Brisbane and adding up people's telephone bills by hand and losing some brain cells to booze and football, it was off to earn some more mullah in the public service and meet some of those hippy chicks from Canberra Town.
    You didn't have to have brains to wear flared trousers and maybe there I could be a writer!
    After a few months in the hostel I found it more economically savvy to move into a tent near the College of Knowledge.
    I didn't notice the fine print from the ads that there were more men than women in Canberra although this was not the case in the typing pool at the Education Department where I worked next to a cartoonist until I took up Gough's scholarship.
    After dipping my toe in at the College of Knowledge before finding myself studying Linguistics, Philosophy, History, and Sociology at the ANU. I was encouraged over to the ANU by some young women who I took a shine to. They really did seem some quite swell gels and bit smart like my only sister who had gone to live in France with her marxist lawyer boyfriend.
    I should have given the flick to linguistics at the ANU rather than banging my head against the wall with its study because language acquisition, indeed any speedy cognitive acquisition had never been one of my strong points. And indeed I think my girlfriends were all studying Anthropology, Literature and Women's Studies.
    I think I should have gone for Politics; something for people with rat cunning; before returning to my correct discipline of writing at the College of Knowledge.
    After one of the multitudinous 19 th Century rail journeys over several days back to my Queensland dreaming away from the cornucopia of Canberra cool; "What was it I was studying?" my father, (I was one of seven children) once enquired, "Flower arranging?"
    I did notice some time in this century that Vietnamese army recruits are indeed instructed in Flower arranging. Maybe I should have studied flower arranging or bar-tending. I must admit that these flower child inspired frockers and flarers pictured did seem to like to drink sherry before meals I learned about that; it was a strange world but not at all too unpleasant.

  4. Gadjo - not only not much diversity, but I don't think any of those jobs really exist any more. All the men who used to lean over young ladies' keyboards murmuring, 'I say, it's jolly clever how you do that, I'm sure I couldn't', now have to fend for themselves (I was going to say 'with two fingers', but decided that my friend Polly might notice and start making more of her smutty comments).
    I think you're right, Geoff, they were all doing Anthropology, Literature and Women's Studies - they liked to tell me endlessly about how I should do the first and last and how much I would love them, which I was almost certain I wouldn't - and anyway I really hate being told I will love things (however, I was persuaded to sit on some committee to set up Women's Studies, even though I despised the idea of it - they told me there would be sandwiches, which was why I agreed [and there were sandwiches, I'm glad to report]). You probably should have done politics. My husband did (plus Russian and possibly history?) and he also, coming from a big family, resented the fact that his parents, while they knew he was at university, hadn't the faintest idea what he was studying. It was one of the main reasons he refused to have more than two children - he didn't want them to suffer from the same benign neglect. The rail journeys over several days sound the best bit of the whole experience

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