Judy Smith

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Judy Smith

I think I must have had too good a time growing up as I remember getting quite a shock when my parents insisted I do some training to get a job after high school.  I had absolutely no idea about a career path and my poor, well meaning parents arranged interviews for me for all sorts of things I had absolutely no interest in and so deliberately sabotaged them (eg Them:  'why do you see yourself working with children?  Me:  'That's mum's idea, not mine..')  Anyway, I eventually relented and mum enrolled me in The Advanced Secretarial Diploma at the TAFE at Reid where I learnt to type and didn't learn to do Pitmans shorthand despite hours and hours and hours of practice.  This qualification fast-tracked me into the lowest level of the public service where I spent a few years being underwhelmed by performing stenographic duties for lecherous men.  I managed to keep my Pitman's failure well and truly hidden as, fortunately, all the bosses seemed to dictate their shorthand from prepared notes which I borrowed for typing back.  I don't think they ever twigged that I was hopeless at shorthand and, just maybe they possibly didn't care anyway as it was more about them having us girls in ultra-mini skirts in their offices!  

During this time I met my first husband, Bill, and his job took him from place to place and, of course, I went too.  We lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, back to Sydney and back to Canberra a few times so I got used to moving house.  Somewhere during this period I found time to do the HSC again (in Sydney exactly 10 years later) and passed so well I got accepted into Optometry at the UNSW.  Whoaaa - big mistake!  I failed to understand titration and the physics was totally beyond me so I didn't last very long.  The lecture theatre was so full of bright young Asian students (about 95%) that it prompted the lecturer to say, when I arrived:  "thank heavens - I was beginning to think I was at the Asian Games..'  Not very politically correct.  Anyway, I'm sure all these student had been born with "The Little Book of Physics" in their hands as the lectures zoomed on at their pace and left me floundering.  Silver lining:  my brand new HSC pass positively spring-boarded me into the 3rd Division of the public service where I could earn more money.  I won't go into all the types of jobs I did there, however, suffice to say there were many, most of them really interesting (especially the job at what was then called the Australian Council for the Arts) but usually I was hopelessly mis-matched to all my jobs.   I did try to change but when I rang up about a job at at plant nursery in Sydney, my call was met with an incredulous "but you're a girl and we need a man who can lift things".  Thank goodness things have moved on a bit for women.

Professionally, I was a bit like a rudderless ship at sea.  I had, however, always known my spiritual place was away from the urban environment and eventually I got my act together (about 18 years after TPHS - nothing slow about me...) and started to work towards that.  After Bill and I returned to Canberra in the mid 1980's I enrolled at Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education (now Charles Sturt University) and studied Agriculture and Equine Science and managed to win a University medallion.  Armed with this qualification, we moved to Bodalla on the NSW south coast where we commenced a cut-flower business (South African and Australian Proteas).  I also became what it now romantically known as a Horse Whisperer and assisted horses and people throughout the Eurobodalla and Far South Coast.  These were fantastic years but they came at a big cost as our marriage went west on the stresses of eking out a living on horticulture and horses.

Whoosh forward to 1998:  I found myself in Darwin working for what was then known as the Rural Industries Training Advisory Board as the Horticulture Consultant marketing the brand new Horticulture Training Package.  To this day I pinch myself I got so lucky with this job.  My office was a Mitsubishi Pajero and satellite phone and I travelled the length and breadth of the NT visiting all sorts of growers.  At the same time another project came to me, courtesy of the Commonwealth Department of Health:  to empower a number of cattle station women to undertake a specially designed first aid and train-the-trainer course to enable them to deliver training at stations across the NT.  This job found me flying from one station to another courtesy of the Stanbroke Pastoral Company in a 4 seater Cessna, to deliver training to a large number of cattle station managers and workers.  What an experience!   I was coincidentally learning to fly at this time so I got a bit more practice on this little Cessna.

After 3 years in the top end I returned to Canberra and got myself a job in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and worked firstly in a program called FarmBis, a fantastic opportunity which necessitated my travel to WA quite a bit as the Commonwealth Government's representative.  After a couple of years I was offered a position that probably goes down as the best job of my  diverse career as the Program Manager, Marine Environment, for the Natural Heritage Trust.  Here I worked with some amazing marine environment researchers and projects to reduce fishing by-catch, as well as  a project called Sea-Net which was managed by Oceanwatch Australia. I did a bit of training at the Australian Maritime College at Beauty Point in Tassie, and went to sea. Unfortunately, when the government changed that was the end of the NHT and me as I decided that was the time to retire from the workforce.

My retirement lasted a few months but I did end up doing about 6 contracts with the Department of Health and Ageing, the last one finishing a couple of months ago.  I don't plan to return to work.. but then I said that at least five times before...

Between the top end and the Department of Agriculture I met my gorgeous husband No. 2 - Andrew. We now live in Chifley, ACT, but plan to move to the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA after he retires (I'm apparently what they call a Cougar....!!)

The major downside of my life is not being able to have children but this has been compensated by a life full of love from family and animals (currently 2 dogs, a cat, and Sunny-the-horse) and adventure.

In my retirement I am learning to be a coach for Pegasus - Riding for the Disabled, I have fun teaching Sunny-the-horse to do tricks and I play guitar in a very ordinary way.  I am trying to learn enough songs to go busking a a place near you (so watch out...) to raise some money for charity if I can.  I have never busked before and I may never muster the courage to do so, but then again, you never know and where would we be without making plans? 

I'm really looking forward to re-connecting with you, my TPHS family, later on in the year and learning where your lives have taken you so far.

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