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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 December 2020 2020) . . Page.. 89 ..


My first full-time job after school was as an accounts clerk at Gerald Slaven Holden in Belconnen, which I loved—50 blokes, three girls and a yard full of grease and engines. I did the accounts and mastered the 12-line telephone system and drove a stack-load of cars to Dickson Motor Registry to pick up the new numberplates. The fellas helped me buy my first motorbike when I was 18.

I do love my bikes and cars. It is great to know that you can wrangle a machine. There is just nothing quite like the rumble of a big engine. I had a great time stripping my HZ Kingswood, which had a 350 Chev engine in it, and I ended up having to sell that one for furniture because I had no money. Another inner rev-head was Australia’s Dame Nellie Melba, one of the first women to sing the praises of the horseless carriage. The prima donna kept a motor on three continents.

My first husband was a salesman at the car yard where I worked, and we married three weeks before I turned 21. I had my son, Lachlan, when I was 22, and my daughter, Bethany, at 28. Life was good. We owned three successful car yards, employed five staff, made lots of money and bought a big house in Fraser.

I salute the courage of small family businesses, because it takes a stack of courage to start and run a business, take on the responsibility of staff and slog it out day after day to make it work. It was at about this time that I also recorded my country music album Perfect Day. “Perhaps I will become a music sensation,” I thought, “and get my hands on a Golden Guitar.”

But running a business is like riding a rollercoaster. You have got the thrilling highs and crushing lows. Our success did not last, and unpaid bills pounded us and the debt collector came knocking on the door. At times we were so skint that mum kept us in food. I became a Tupperware lady and turned my spare bedroom into a beauty parlour, doing waxing and pedicures to put food on the table.

Life is never easy. We liquidated the business, lost the house and the marriage went too. I moved into mum’s house, rang my old boss and asked for a job to start a new chapter in my career—in IT of all things. This is for a girl who thought clouds were in the sky and networks were a bunch of professionals. Talk about sink or swim! My first role was on an IT helpdesk. They trained me, and we were all grateful.

I gained a diploma in project management and landed roles at the AFP and Defence, managing teams of up to 10 people, setting off from home each morning with my packet of soup and cup in my handbag, hot-desking it with the masses—a far cry from “Ms Castley, may we order some new crockery for your office?” My second marriage was not a success, but it helped me learn more about myself—that I can be resilient; nothing can break me.

When it comes to politics, this chick from Charny does not fit the mould. I may have smashed the mould, which I think would be a good thing—not for me any union official background, starting as a political staffer, raging and recruiting in the Young Liberals or Labor movement. When I was growing up, politics was not really discussed around the table because we rarely ate dinner at the table. Mum would often


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