T had two daughters, aged 4 and 7, when her marriage broke up. She was devastated. This was outside the experience of anyone in her family and she had no models to draw on. She found a place to rent in the outer Adelaide Hills.
On leaving school in 1967 she had done the first year of an Arts degree at the University of NSW, but had been unmotivated as well as ill, and did not sit her exams. She was very fortunate that academic staff were concerned for her future wellbeing and arranged for the university to issue a letter to the effect she had withdrawn from the course due to illness without a failure being recorded. She then worked in the private sector as an office manager for a company of geologists and geophysicists, learning typing and doing some study in Geology at the University of Sydney at night. All these skills she used in later work.
She moved to Kalgoorlie, providing the debt collecting service for a firm of lawyers – working with their major public and private sector clients to collect the clients’ outstanding debts from individual debtors. If Letters of Demand failed to recover the outstanding amounts, she would prepare Local Court Summonses and arrange for them to be served on the individual debtors. If payments remained outstanding, depending on the debtors’ level of known assets, she would then either prepare documentation for service of Warrants of Execution, where debtors’ goods would be seized to offset the outstanding amounts, or prepare Judgement Summonses, in response to which debtors would attend their particular Local Court in the WA Goldfields where T would question them before the presiding Magistrate and negotiate a workable repayment arrangement. The Magistrate would then issue a Court Order for the agreed payment schedule.
On the break-up of her marriage, an old friend suggested that T should undertake some study using one of the scholarships that the Whitlam Government had recently introduced. T took up the idea and, presenting her letter from the University of NSW, was enrolled in her preferred course, Early Childhood Education. She was attracted by the school holidays because of her children’s young ages, liked children and was really interested in observing her own children and learning about their development.
Her first Practice Teaching Experience disabused her of her particularly ill-conceived notion of school hours. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the study and the Practice Teaching. She had done a major in Teacher Librarianship as part of her Early Childhood Diploma course and switched to a Primary B Ed, ending up qualifying as both an Early Childhood and a Primary Teacher, a Teacher Librarian and Public Librarian.
On completion of her Early Childhood Diploma she obtained a teaching contract in the Adelaide Hills taking up a Reception class created by additional enrolments during the year. She did a one term contract as a teacher-librarian at an Adelaide metropolitan area Primary School, followed by a term team-teaching in Reception, while completing her B Ed part-time. She then accepted a contract at another Adelaide Primary School where the principal was keen to automate the library and was looking for a teacher-librarian with skill and interest in that area. T had studied automated systems as part of her course and very much fitted the bill. The school had a group of interested parents who formed a support group and got involved. T established links with other support groups, including the School Libraries Branch and networks of both libraries and schools. She set up research facilities linked to the automated catalogues and found boys battering down the doors of the library at lunch time to use them. It was a satisfying and exciting experience.
At this stage, the School Libraries Branch was merged into the newly opened The Orphanage Teachers’ Centre at Goodwood. A new role of Library Automation Support was created and advertised and T was encouraged to apply. She won the position and remained in it, adding Library Automation training to the role, for seven years. It gave her many opportunities to assist in the application of automated systems to curriculum and resource-based learning as the whole area of information technology opened up in schools.
When The Orphanage Teachers’ Centre closed in 1997, T moved into the Information Technology Branch of the Education Department to manage the tender process for a State-wide library automation system. She undertook the role of Acting Manager of the Out-of-School libraries at the Hindmarsh Centre – the successor of The Orphanage. When the libraries were closed and the substantive Manager retired, she and T researched and priced a range of options for the library service and oversaw the closure of the service as it had existed. T, with seven colleagues from the former service, then moved into 31 Flinders Street as the Electronic Research and Information Service. After an exciting two years of delivering electronic resources to the desktops of senior department officers and giving talks about the electronic services to other professional libraries’ staff, the service was closed as part of overall department cost savings. T accepted the role of Senior Policy Advisor to the Executive Director Human Resources and won a scholarship to the Carnegie Mellon University which had established a campus in Adelaide. She found the Master of Science in Public Policy and Management course stimulating and useful. It gave her access to a range of talented and ambitious overseas public servants all intent on creating new solutions and supporting their countries to develop 21st Century infrastructure.
A change of government, however, meant that the benefits of the program were not fully realised in Adelaide. T negotiated a move to the Human Resources branch of the Education Department and subsequently to Aboriginal Education, working in Aboriginal education research and coordinating the operations of the State-wide community engagement body. Not long after, Families SA was merged into the Education Department and T has been working on a range of policy initiatives in this very challenging area.
Tertiary Education opened up a whole range of areas for T and she has been able to combine and build on each of them. She has skills and knowledge in Early Childhood and Primary education, librarianship, information technology, leadership of employees in both the private and public sector, research and associated services and project management. These have led to skills and experience in regulation and deregulation, ethical conduct, merit selection, resolution of bullying and harassment and a keen appreciation of the role and impact of public and policy development in the community. She has been able to work in varied environments and take up opportunities and follow areas of interest – partly, at least, because she is interested in so many things and very willing to move into areas, such as automation, to which many teachers from more conventional entry-points were averse.
She found many people patronising about her Early Childhood background in a world of IT and policy – but it gave her the understanding of human development and learning that underpinned her success in the highly technological and political fields in which she has made such a successful career.