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.