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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (4 December) . . Page.. 3909..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Alma grew up with six brothers, three of whom were older and three younger. She was the only girl in the family. She lived at the historic schoolhouse at St John's Church in Reid, with two of her older brothers attending school there. Her father worked at Duntroon Station at the time of her birth and the family remained there even after the commonwealth government acquired the land for the establishment of the Royal Military College in 1911.

She commenced school when she was five, at Duntroon public school, and recalled it being a thriving institution with two teachers. There were kids there from throughout the district. At the age of eight she went to St Gregory's convent school in Queanbeyan, attending as a boarder during the week and coming home to the family on weekends. After that she attended Our Lady of Mercy in Goulburn until the age of 17. She then stayed at home until she was aged about 29, when she got her first job.

She had great memories of growing up in Canberra in the early days. She had fond memories of Duntroon; there was a great mix of both military and civilian families. She had special friends there, including the family who ran the now historic Duntroon dairy.

The De Smet family remained at Duntroon until the Depression, when the RMC was transferred to Victoria Barracks. Alma's father, Albert, had retired by this stage and he managed to get lodgings at a Gungahlin property owned by a Dr Watson. He did odd jobs there in exchange for accommodation.

In 1940 her unmarried brother Charles became the lessee of a government house in Suttor Street, Ainslie, and she moved in there. She recalled that her weekly rent then was �1 5s 6d. She lived there for many years. She got her first job in accounts in what was later McGurr's butchers in the Sydney Building in Civic. She remained there for a year and then got a job in the Government Printing Office in Kingston, still in accounts. At this time her mother, unfortunately, contracted Parkinson's disease and she became a full-time carer at home. The house in Ainslie had many sad memories for Alma. Her father unexpectedly died in 1944; her mother was totally bedridden for many years and died in November 1949; and her brother Charles died at home in 1965.

She rejoined the workforce in 1954 as a clerical assistant in the transport section of the Department of the Interior at Kingston. She had at some stage rented a house in Ross Road, Queanbeyan, and she always had a great garden, with manicured lawns and an aviary that housed a great variety of birds. She spent many years in Queanbeyan, and it was not until she reached her retirement in 1973 that she came to live in Canberra. She moved into a flat in Kanangra Court in Reid. At this stage Tony was her only remaining brother, as Jules had died in 1970, Eugene in 1971, Arthur in 1972, Nairn in 1966 and Charles in 1965.

Her life there was enjoyable. She was close to her beloved Civic and loved David Jones and Fletcher Jones. She had public transport near to her door, her church was within walking distance, and with her ever-present charm and her retentive memory she was always ready for any inquiring mind that wanted to bone up on how things were in the early days of Canberra. Alma provided a tremendous amount of


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