24 December 2021

Living in the 70s, when men were men and women could almost earn a living

| Sally Hopman
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Living in the 70s cover

“The men are over there.” Canberra was a top spot to nab a bonza bloke in the 1970s (apparently). Image: Supplied.

Back in the 1970s, Canberra – for women – was the place to go. Great job opportunities. You could be a secretary, a stenographer, or even a typist. You could work for the government, close to where all the important men worked. You could even earn money. Not a lot, but probably enough to keep you in perms.

At least that’s what the brochures said. Like the one entitled, Hi! Come and join us in Canberra – a week in the life of three young women.

It’s straight out of the 70s, encouraging young women to move to Canberra by featuring a week in the life of women who had done it. And lived to tell the tale.

But we know it was all a ruse.

Canberra was the place to go in the 1970s because that’s where you could nab a husband. All its talk about being the seat of power, having a lake, two TV stations. Today we’d say, LOL. Then it was just a joke.

Young women went to Canberra because there were way more blokes than women there. It was a place where men were men and women were, well, not men.

READ ALSO If you’re tired of life in the fast lane …

No, you couldn’t tell from the cover, but clearly the brochure-makers were men, and clever. Almost subtle, even.

On the cover, they shot two women. Usually with a cover, you try to grab the potential reader’s attention. Not so much with this one. Instead, they opted for one woman in an attractive ensemble of patterned pants, a little orange number over a white shirt with, naturally matching orange shoes pointing at something in the distance. A stylist perhaps?

Her friend is seated nearby, in a pretty light blue outfit, complete with white beret, looking confused. But there was no need because, in the fuzzy distance, you can see Old Parliament House so you know where they were. Even if they didn’t.

Living in the 70s

Are you having lunch with a co-worker or a long-lost Beatle? Image: Supplied.

But now for the bad news. One of the women looks to be getting up close and personal with a bloke called Ian who looks suspiciously like someone who was a regular on Australia’s Most Wanted. It’s the sideburns – even his face looks scared of them.

The stenographer/typist/secretary/brain surgeon (just kidding about the last one) gazes at him with her trusting eyes as she introduces him to the reader.

“This is Ian,” she says helpfully. “He’s very nice but a bit shy.”

Shy? Seriously. He looks like a sociopathic axe murderer with a penchant for drowning three-legged kittens in vats of hot oil every second Tuesday …

READ ALSO Sydney and Melbourne buildings – a unique part of Canberra

Unfortunately, she continues. “Ian works in my department … so we see quite a bit of each other.” Thankfully, there are no pictures.

If Ian didn’t fit the bill, there’s always the bloke with the shiny basin-cut hair. So shiny he could get a job as a star. In the sky. The girls seem to lunch with him most days and again later for dinner. Perhaps he’s at it a little too often as he looks to be barely containing himself within his paisley shirt. If his public service career failed, he could have got a job as the fifth Beatle. Or, with that moustache, well, you can guess …

According to the brochure, there were lots of opportunities for women to meet their intended in the fun city that was Canberra in the 1970s.

“The social life in Canberra is good. There are two television channels, three radio stations, and soon there’ll be nine movie theatres including two drive-ins.”

And because in Canberra in the 1970s everything was near everything else, and you never worked past 5 pm, people did stuff after work.

“Our evenings are free,” one of the women said, adding the best bit, “and the shops are open on Friday night AND Saturday morning.”

Then there are the clothes. It was all clunky shoes, wide pants and wild shirts. The women’s fashion was pretty out there, too.

“We think the shops in Canberra are as good as Sydney and Melbourne,” the women say. “Canberra keeps up with ‘in’ fashions like the other capital cities, with good boutiques, hairdressing salons and record shops.”

Record shops? Perhaps that’s where they got their vinyl frocks.

Want more? Read on.

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HiddenDragon7:17 pm 03 Jan 22

Yes, that does look a bit like something that might have been a Cleo insert, just before the centrefold and facing an advert for Virginia Slims.

On the other hand, change was stirring –

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/brazen-hussies

Quite a bit in that about Liz Reid, and some footage of a lively mid-70s episode of Monday Conference held in Canberra.

Roslyn Marlton3:25 pm 01 Jan 22

I moved here in 1974 as a Grad Clerk… haven’t seen this brochure before today! The shopping back then was terrible…. couldn’t wait to go to Sydney or Melbourne to shop… and the restaurants were very posh, no casual dining… oh and taxis…a nightmare!!

Leilani Sinclair1:41 pm 01 Jan 22

That’s my mum….the lady dressed in blue is my mother!

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