Excerpt from an interview with Hazel Craig, 1997 - asset 1 - (TLF R4151 v1.0.0)
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image icon Excerpt from an interview with Hazel Craig, 1997 - asset 1

Excerpt from an interview with Hazel Craig, 1997 - asset 1
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library

Description

This is an excerpt (approximately 3 minutes) from a 1997 oral history interview with Hazel Craig, in which she relates memories of Canberra and parliament during her time as a stenographer in the Prime Minister's Department from 1934 into the 1940s.

transcript iconA transcript is available for this resource.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset reveals something of the isolation of Australia's capital city, Canberra, in the 1930s and 1940s - Hazel Craig, who worked for various parliamentarians including Prime Ministers Joseph Lyons, Robert Menzies, John Curtin and Ben Chifley, recalls that air travel was uncommon and long-distance journeys were usually made by train; parliamentarians from the more distant states faced long periods of travel between their electorates and Canberra; the journey between Canberra and Perth, for example, took 4.5 days and, due to different railway gauges, involved several changes of train.
  • This asset indicates that Canberra was a sparsely populated centre in the 1930s and 1940s, more like a friendly country town than a cosmopolitan city - Craig recalls that members of parliament were 'more friendly to each other in those days', reflecting upon the fact that they could not easily return to their homes for weekends and 'had to make their own recreation facilities'; she remembers that, when parliament was sitting, the staff 'quite often played tennis ... with some of the parliamentary people'.
  • This asset suggests something of the slow development of Australia's national capital - the city was designed in 1911-12 by US architect Walter Burley Griffin, who planned a city to house a population of 25,000; after the First World War, changes of government and lack of money slowed progress, although notable developments had already included the opening of the railway (1914), the Kingston Power Station (1915) and the Cotter Dam (1915), with the opening of Parliament House following in 1927; even by the time the Second World War broke out in 1939, Canberra's population had risen to just 10,000 and the city had only a very basic transport and communications network with Sydney and Melbourne, where the wartime economy was concentrated.