I Was Only 19

Forty years ago, I left home as a young 19-year-old to take up employment at the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra.  I was to start work as a Programming Assistant Grade 1, the bottom of the professional ranks in the IT world at the time.

I travelled to Canberra from Sydney by plane and it was, indeed, my very first plane trip.  It was in a Fokker Friendship and I thoroughly enjoyed the flight.

On arrival in Canberra I bumped into John Gorton (deposed as Prime Minister earlier that year) and his assistant, Ainsley Gotto, as I waited to collect my luggage.  I was then driven in a long black “C” plated car to my new residence, Lawley House.

Lawley House was a Commonwealth Hostel which housed the influx of public servants arriving in Canberra until they could find a house to live in.  It cost me $50 per fortnight to live there (I was earning $80 a fortnight) and that provided me with a room (cleaned daily by a maid), and three meals a day.

After I unpacked on that Sunday afternoon, I sat in my room and thought “Shit, what have I done”.  I was in a strange city, and about to start work in a field I had no knowledge of.   (The Commonwealth Public Service was desperate for programmers and I was selected on the basis of an IQ test.)

I thought I would learn all I could about computers and after a couple of years return to Sydney.  Little did I know that ten years later I would be married with 3 beautiful children and a mortgage and that I would have moved rapidly up the ranks at work to be a project manager.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

I left the public service at the age of 45 and had no financial need to ever work again.  I am now a woman approaching 60 with six delightful young grandchildren and am about to retire from my part-time job at the national university.

I love my life and would never have dared to imagine all those years ago that it would turn out so well.


I still love flying but I detest airlines and airports.

The building that was Lawley House is now the Australian Federal Police’s Training College in Brisbane Avenue.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Calie
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 13:07:17

    Always nice to read a positive post. If life is good, what else could you want?


  2. Peta
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 09:58:25

    Indeed, Calie. What else could you want.


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