Beryl Hunt worked at Old Parliament House for approximately twenty-seven years, between 1950 and 1989. Her service was in several different time frames and in a variety of jobs. This included as a stenographer in a minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office as a Hansard typist and in the Press Gallery.
Interview with Beryl Hunt
M Dempster: … Old Parliament House is delighted to have you as part of our Oral History Program. Do you understand that this copyright is shared between you and OPH?
B Hunt: I do.
M Dempster: And do we have your permission to make a transcript if so desired?
B Hunt: Yes, that’s fine.
M Dempster: Great. This is tape one of an interview with Mrs Beryl Hunt who worked at Old Parliament House for approximately twenty-seven years, between 1950 and 1989. Her service was in several different time frames and in a variety of jobs. This included as a stenographer in a minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office as a Hansard typist and in the Press Gallery. She is being interviewed by Margaret Dempster the interview is occurring on Friday March 28 2003.
Right Beryl we’ll get down to business. As I’ve already said you worked in a number of different jobs in this building but I wonder if you could just give us a little bit about your background. Were you a resident of Canberra before you started working here? How long you were working here? Were you married when you started working here?
B Hunt: Oh yes, well in the 1950s, no late ‘40s and ’50 Canberra was very short of typists and they sent out SOSs to the states for stenographers and that is how I came to Canberra in the first place. I had been before. I came in 1948 and worked through ’49 and then went home. I came in 1950 and worked for the PMs department and they needed somebody to work for Mr Willoughby who was Mr Menzie’s Personal Private Secretary. I came over and worked for him for six months and that was the term I was here for. Then I went home and got married and after I was married in 1952, the end of ’51-’52 I worked in Mr Holt’s office as a stenographer, mainly working for the private secretary. I did very little work for Mr Holt himself, although he was there. He was Minister for Immigration and Labour and National Service. That started the love affair with Parliament House. I really liked working in Parliament House. It was like a unit. There was the post office, the bank, you could get a meal. It was a really self-contained place.
M Dempster: Where did you live in those early years, ’48 …
B Hunt: The first time I came to Canberra I lived at the Hotel Ainslie which is Olims now. It was a girls hostel, just girls, we had shared rooms. The next time I came to Canberra I stayed there a week and it closed down. It became a normal hotel and we went to Reid House which was …
M Dempster: You were still single at this stage?
B Hunt: Yes I was still single, that’s when I was six months, the six months that I worked for Mr Willoughby but I was engaged to be married and that’s why I was coming back and forward between Perth and Canberra. We got used to the life in Canberra, riding bikes. There weren’t the facilities there are now. Our big outing was a trip to the fish café instead of having hostel meals. If somebody had a car we’d go to a football match, played hockey down on the Acton Flats before it was flooded. The first time I played with — that’s something to do with Parliament House. The first time I played with the Y and I was pretty naïve and they were pretty worldly wise and so the next time I came over I played with the young Anglicans [laughs]. That’s when I really got to like Parliament House.
Of course I had family, but about 1956 I started to work for Hansard on the House and that was good because you knew when you were working. You were working Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday afternoons through — well you didn’t know when you were working because in those days they didn’t have any stipulated hours. You could work through until two or three in the morning. That was very hard on Wednesdays because you had to line up again at 10.30 on Thursday morning and I had two kiddies at that stage. It was good. We had lovely meals up in the dining room, there was a non-members dining room. We had waitresses, thoroughly enjoyed that part of it, to get away from the house.
M Dempster: When you didn’t finish until two or three o’clock in the morning, how did you get home?
B Hunt: With the Commonwealth cars, there were always Commonwealth cars to take us home, we were never allowed to go home on our own. So that worked out quite well because it made you feel more confident because Canberra was quite a small place then, lots of places where there were no houses or anything like that.
M Dempster: No lights I presume.
B Hunt: Yes, that’s right.
M Dempster: No I always felt safe that way. As a matter of a fact as soon as I used to come into the House I’d just shed all my — any house sorrows, forget all about that. I’d leave it to my husband. I’d left everything organised so — there were quite a few of us like that. In fact it was a friend of mine that introduced me to it. The reporters were all men in those days and they only had one recording. If they had a bad, what they called a turn, listening to do it, they’d have to go in and listen to what they called George, to catch some that they had missed.
We called them Mr this and Mr that, Mr McKnight. When I came back in 1970 when they set up the tape transcript area everyone was Christian names but it was terribly difficult to call them by their Christian name having called them Mr.
M Dempster: And it was the same staff to some extent?
B Hunt: Yes, still the same and then some of them were acting — we had an Annex down at the printing office and things were landlined down to the printing office. We used to come up and monitor committees, Select Committees, Standing Committees. You had to say who was speaking and that sort of thing so we came back to the House quite a bit. We worked on Estimates Committees. These senior reporters went down there as supervisors to handle the staff down there. I stayed there really from 1970 it was spasmodic then, I was holding a job over at the library at the university because it was only occasional but then it became full.
M Dempster: Sessional I suppose.
B Hunt: Well it was always a casual employment — no actually there was more work out of session because they sat on committees more out of session, that was my impression anyway.
M Dempster: Can we just go back a little bit perhaps.
B Hunt: Yes.
M Dempster: You first worked in the Prime Minister’s office …
B Hunt: Yes.
M Dempster: … and then you worked in a Minster’s office. Perhaps you could just tell us a little bit about those two events, who you were working with, direct contact with the big boys or?
B Hunt: I always felt a little bit of a second string. I worked in an office opposite where Mr Menzies really private stenographers, Hazel Craig and Binny Lenehan [?] they were his real typists. But there used to be a lot of visitors coming in with their kiddies and things like that. But as I say I didn’t work actually — I saw Mr Menzies a lot but I didn’t actually work for him. I was working for Mr Willoughby. I did the Honours List I typed that up.
M Dempster: That’s the imperial honours.
B Hunt: Yes because that had to be kept secret.
M Dempster: Oh yes very confidential.
B Hunt: Sit up on the Cabinet table and type those so nobody could see those, but I just did ordinary everyday work. I have to say. We were able to walk the lobbies and go into the House, not on the floor, just inside the doors and stand there and listen to what was going on. There were attendants on the doors but they had to deliver mail. They weren’t like sentries. They never interfered with you but they could always answer your questions.
There was freedom, there was no security. Mr Menzies used to stop out the side there. My office was on the east side just inside the door there and he used to be let off here and the press would devour him, they were able to do that, we used to see that a lot. Just the movement around the House, there were no restrictions in those days.
M Dempster: When do you think that changed? Was it a gradual change or a dramatic change?
B Hunt: As I say I left the House in ’51 and I had a couple of children but even when I came back in ’56 it was much the same. Hansard was down in the east side on the bottom ground floor then. We came and went as we pleased. There was no restriction event then. I left in ’58 because I had another child and so I didn’t come back again then until 1970. So I can’t really think if there was anything except the meals were great and the hours were long.
It was a bit of an art typing for the reporters. Some reporters were better at dictating than others and some typists were better at typing, they had to learn to keep with the typists and not go ahead too far and that sort of thing.
M Dempster: What speed did you need to have?
B Hunt: I was trying to think about that. I think it was only like the 60 or 65 — it’s just in the back of my mind that is what it was but we had manual typewriters then. I really can’t remember but I think when I came back in 1970 we had electric carriage return and that made a big difference. You just pressed a button and the carriage returned. I think they stayed, I think, they stayed until we tried to introduce word processors into the House about in the ‘80s but it didn’t work — jumping ahead. When they started up the tape transcript area we had the normal typewriters but in the early ’80 they introduced word processing which made it easier all round for printing and everything like that. Then they tried to introduce it to the House but it was too slow and the members didn’t get — well not completely, but it was too slow, because the members didn’t get their greens. They always get a green copy back of what they’ve said and they’re allowed to make alterations and they couldn’t get them before they went home, and then it was printed.
M Dempster: Right, now just go back to that green copy. So the recorder has come up to the typist. The typist has typed up a draft …
B Hunt: Yes.
M Dempster: … and printed it on green paper?
B Hunt: No, they’ve typed it — there were several copies. You had them all ready because you had turns and had to be ready for your reporter and there was a roster and you knew what number your turn was and all that sort of thing. There were several copies. You had to put all your carbon in. The Reps were green and the Senate was pink. The reporter did his work and then I think it went to a supervisor, well it did go through a supervisor and then the member got the green copy or the pink copy. Then if they wanted any alterations they’d get back to Hansard anything that was incorrect or something like that. Then that would be what was printed over night because the Hansards were printed overnight. That’s my memory of it.
M Dempster: Did you always work to the same recorder or was it?
B Hunt: No, it was a roster. The first turns of the day which were Question Time usually were five minute turns and then after the first hour and a bit they were ten minute turns. I think that might have been — I think there were six typists on each House but there might have been eight reporters. There weren’t even numbers of reporters to typists. I really can’t remember the ratio but it went around in a circle sort of thing and you got a different reporter most time. Sometimes you were lucky enough to get what they called a red turn where the member would hand the reporter a copy of his speech [laughs] and all you had to do was head it up.
M Dempster: So it was read instead of red.
B Hunt: That’s right. You just had to head it up. There was a lot of format that the reporters had to know. We didn’t have to know a lot of that, really the responsibility was on the reporter. We just had to be able to type fast and spell well.
M Dempster: And accurately.
B Hunt: Yes, that’s right. So as I say as soon as I came in I’d shed the shackles of home a bit [laughs] and so I quite enjoyed the job but it was had on the family I must say. Anyway I became pregnant in ’58 and left again and that was that. But I really can’t tell you a lot about the PMs office because, as I say, it was just a job in a way.
Even with Mr Holt, I quite enjoyed that actually. I think I left because there was a bit of demand on me. You worked long hours in Parliament House, what they called the Parliament House pallor, you come in at eight o’clock in the morning and go home at eleven o’clock at night.
M Dempster: Never see the son.
B Hunt: It didn’t suit our lifestyle. I was just married. That was when I was working for Mr Hold and so I went and worked for an architect until I started having children. But that was Parliament House the early days, but I was hooked then [laughs]. Then when the tape transcript section — what section, any rate, when the tape transcript area was mooted and I saw the advertisement I came along and it went from there. Very good money it was [laughs].
M Dempster: [laughs] Well for a young married person that would be …
B Hunt: It was. I mean we used to get seventeen pound a week in ’56 I think when we started in ’70 we were getting that much a day. It seemed like a fortune. When I left in 1989 we were getting well over the hundred a day and so that was a change whereas we started off with manual typewriters, when I left we were using word processors and that made it easier for the printing. I don’t really know the routine but you did have to — it was only a matter of transferring it through keyboards I think to get it printed. I really don’t know the way they did that but it did make a big difference. The Hansard people asked me if I’d instruct some of the people who used to set the Hansards, to teach them to type because they were going onto computers. So I used to spend an hour of a morning with these men down at the printing office to teach them to use a typewriter.
M Dempster: That was another string to your bow. So these were the printers?
B Hunt: The actual people who set the type, as I say I probably should know the term but I don’t. They were very quick at it and they had to change with the times. So they had to learn to type. Those who had been print-setter or whatever it is, they took to typing much quicker than someone who had been doing other jobs, but they didn’t catch on quite as quickly but they probably did alright. So these little things.
I had lots of jobs at Parliament House. The government used to have elections and double dissolutions and things like that so we’d — there was no work for us then. Sometimes we’d go and get another job if we wanted to, or something like that. So, I forget what I was going to say then …
M Dempster: And some of the other jobs you did.
B Hunt: Yes, in 1974 they wanted somebody to set up a tape transcript area for backbenchers. They could dictate into tapes and we would type the …
M Dempster: And were these the speeches in the House?
B Hunt: No, it was supposed to be parliamentary work but quite often you’d get a whole tape full of, thank you for inviting me for your fete, they were typing the date and the address and this little note. You seemed to be putting paper into the typewriter all the time but it was mainly — it was supposed to be parliamentary work that they were giving you. A lot of them liked it too. I can remember one member coming in one day in a hurry and he says ‘Can you ladies help me? I’ve got to make a speech and I don’t know what to do. Can you type this in a hurry?’. Of course I turned around. It was David Connolly actually I think he was the member for St George or something. I said ‘Would you like to dictate it to me’. He nearly fell over and said ‘Alright’. So anyway, he dictated away and I typed away, and he said ‘You’re an excellent typist’. He probably hadn’t run into it before. So that was a bit of a buzz.
I wasn’t that enamoured with Parliament House that I wanted to stay on because I kept getting pulled away to work in Bills and Tables and typing pools because I knew a bit about Parliament House and my friend had never worked in Parliament House. So in the end I went back to the printing office and she stayed on. She really liked it. It was all new to her.
M Dempster: Bills and Tables?
B Hunt: Is it Bills and Tables down there, down the bottom, under Joint House?
M Dempster: Right.
B Hunt: Yes, Mr Cochrane was the man that I was mainly typing for.
M Dempster: And you were actually typing up the Bills that were being debated?
B Hunt: No, no just correspondence and documents that he wanted typed up, that’s from memory. I don’t really remember every little thing but I didn’t really — someone was away sick and I didn’t really like it, full stop.
M Dempster: Now you mentioned working in the Press Gallery?
B Hunt: Oh yes, well I’ve got to go from — I told you I had family and about 1961 a friend of mine rang up and said ‘Can you use a tele-printer?’ and I said ‘No’ she said ‘Come and I’ll teach you’. So I went up and she taught me how to use the tele-printer because she wanted to go on holidays. So I took her job while she was on holidays. It was a conglomerate the Melbourne Sun, the Courier Mail, Adelaide Advertiser, Brisbane Telegraph, they were all in the one area and they used to get all the handouts and you’d have to type what they gave you and send it off through the tele-printer. That was alright when you could see what was on the tape. Some of it was just holes and it was all new to me but — now it was a whole new world to me because that was private enterprise. I could be left up there until midnight. I had my own transport and everything in those days. I had to have my own transport although they were very generous at Christmas time.
M Dempster: So you weren’t employed by the government at that time?
B Hunt: No.
M Dempster: You were employed by the newspapers?
B Hunt: Yes. I worked there for a long time because there was a 3 o’clock job and then a 5 o’clock job and the 5 o’clock lady left and so that suited me better. I used to bring my kiddies into West Block where my husband worked and he used to take them [laughs].
M Dempster: Well just the way we all lived those days.
B Hunt: That’s right. It was different. I quite enjoyed that. That was ’61, see nothing much was going on then. I wasn’t looking for that much. What we used to do — talking about the security earlier, no security. We used to go across the roof to save us going downstairs and coming up again, we’d go across the roof and then just — if we wanted to go somewhere on one of the upper floors, we’d just get out the window and go across the roof. I remember that. So that shows you the difference in security.
The passes came in when I came back in 1970. How long they’d been in I don’t know, but we had to have our photos taken when we came into the House. We came up quite often from the printing office, as I say, to monitor. Sometimes to relieve the girls on the House because if they’d had a very heavy time and they needed a rest. They used to bring reporters up from New South Wales to relieve the reporters because they were pretty exhausted. So they were in and out a little bit. When they tried to bring in the word processors we tried to teach the Hansard typists by then. That’s all about Hansard.
In the meantime when I came back in1970 they were over the Senate side on the second floor. They’d moved that way but still a lot of the same people were there and they gradually left and the younger ones came up. That’s about all I can think about Parliament House really.
M Dempster: You mentioned to me that you worked in a room over here that’s been, I know was Tony Eggleton’s office at one stage and was the name escapes me …
B Hunt: Charlesworth
M Dempster: Yes.
B Hunt: I remember him because he’s a West Australian.
M Dempster: You worked in that office. We know what it’s like know with washbasin and desks and whatnot, how many of you worked in there? What was it like? What was the setup?
B Hunt: Well there were three typists there the other two girls were departmental typists. They worked for a Private Secretary, Mr Lansdown and myself and I worked for Mr Willoughby although if I had to come back of a night I’d work for Mr Lansdown. It had three desks. It didn’t have a basin or anything like that. We seemed to have enough room for what we wanted but the Private Secretaries were in the room opposite. They could have occupied this room here. A lot of the corridors have been filled in since our time. They were much clearer. I think they’ve taken corners and built new little offices. It was much more open back in those days but they’ve gradually encroached on the passages and made offices for them.
Yes, so it was always a bit of a buzz going on over the corridor as I say, there were visitors. One I remember was Mrs House used to come in and brought Jonathon. I think Jonathon grew up to become a parliamentarian, I’m not too sure. We used to — they used to have formal occasions in Kings Hall and we used to stand on the steps and watch all the dignitaries coming in and they were little highlights which we probably thought were jolly good at the time. Now it’s a bit blase about it all.
M Dempster: What would you say was the most exciting thing that happened while you were here?
B Hunt: I thought you might ask me something stupid like that [laughs] that’s the worse question you could ask anybody.
M Dempster: [laughs]
B Hunt: Well actually, I thought we really saw the Queen but when I was thinking back the Queen wasn’t out here in those years so I thought it must have been Princess Alexandra they must have had a reception for her. I used to find the opening of parliament spectacular with the bands and all that sort of thing. Didn’t see a lot of — what shall we say, the procedures that they followed with the black rod coming through and all that sort of thing. I can’t recall having seen a lot of that.
My father came across one day and met the local member and he took us to dinner in the Members Dining Room, we thought that was pretty good then [laughs]. He thought it was lovely. He knew him quite well actually. No I can’t really give you any startling …
M Dempster: Were you actually working in ’74 or were you over at the printing office, because the Queen opened parliament in this building in 1974.
B Hunt: That must have been when it was because that is when I was setting up the tape transcript for backbenchers. I was up here in 1974, so that is what it must have been. I couldn’t really recall what it was. One thing I did notice there were no female shorthand writers back in1956 but when I came back in ’70 there were a lot, the numbers had grown. Then they gradually would introduce the machines for taking shorthand. It was all written in my time but were using these machines more, mainly the women, that was one of the things, the change in typewrites, that’s about all I really remember about things.
M Dempster: You weren’t here when the miners stormed the Kings Hall?
B Hunt: No, no I was here when all that Khemlani business was going on. It makes you aware of what’s going on, more than if you. If I didn’t work here I probably wouldn’t have taken a lot of notice. I remember the times of Eddie Ward and all that really boisterous time, wasn’t it, yes. Apart from that. I just had a love affair with the place, you feel sentimental when you talk about it. When things come up you think, oh yes I remember seeing him.
I can remember that Sir Arthur Fadden was a pretty happy fellow and never ignored you, always said hello to you, and things like — some were and some weren’t, but really didn’t get to know members as such really. I remember one day Mr Peacock and Mr Chipp came into our — they discovered the tape transcript section. They’d just gone into Opposition, I think, at that stage. They were up in the corridor opposite us. That’s about all.
I did work in the Press Gallery quite a bit because I knew the system and if somebody wanted somebody. I’d fill in at Reuters or I’d fill in at the ABC, only transcribing on the tele-printer. Actually the tele-printer was a bit being on a chat line with the computers these days because you could type a note and someone would answer it back in Melbourne that sort of thing. That is what it reminded me of but that’s about all I can think of at the time.
M Dempster: Was there much social life centred on the House?
B Hunt: Well I wasn’t in a position to be, because I had a family, my main object was to get home each time but a lot of the ladies pressed on down the Press Gallery. Later on, the women weren’t allowed in the bars in the early days when I was here but later on when I came back in the ‘70s they were. Some of them used to adjourn to the bar later. My first thoughts was to get home so I didn’t participate. Sometimes we used to organise ourselves to have a day of golf up the Federal or somewhere like that. We used to go out and have a Christmas lunch, somewhere or other at Civic Hotel and places like that. The sort of things that you did, but nothing really spectacular. As I said I played sport. I played hockey for a while but that’s about what I can remember relating to Parliament House. The rest is relating to married life.
M Dempster: You mentioned you enjoyed having the meals in the non-members dining room, what sort of food did they prepare?
B Hunt: Well, they were excellent. We never had roast pork at home, but I certainly had roast pork here every time I could because they weren’t very expensive. We did pay for them but they sere subsidised. That was another thing. It was a dining room with white table clothes and waitresses. At that stage, I think, people were coming out from Europe and they had to work for two years for the government and they were waitresses from Estonia and Latvia and those sort of places. I presume that’s where they were from because when I lived at the Hotel Ainslie we had a lady from Latvia who worked in the dining room. When I came we were still using coupons. We had to present our coupon and get our butter and all that so it probably — that was in the ’50 so that would have been much the same in the dining room here. They would have had a few restrictions I would think. I don’t remember when coupons went out but they were still — in 1949 they were still — you still had to have them for sugar and butter and things like that. But that was a change — that was that lovely dining room. When I got back it was cafeteria style, that went. We really enjoyed it and we used to get morning tea. We’d get this huge tray of apple slices from the dining room for morning tea.
M Dempster: This was the early days?
B Hunt: The early days, the early Hansard days, so yes, but that was a change in the eating facilities anyway.
M Dempster: What was the security level by the time you left here?
B Hunt: Well, you had to show your pass whenever you, whichever door you came in. We used to entre on the Senate side. There were places you couldn’t go. As I said we used to roam around the lobbies, either the Labor lobby or the government one, the Opposition or the government one. Put our head into the House and that sort of thing, well I don’t think we were allowed to do that. It was a little bit more restrictive but you could still move around the House, go down and read the papers. Actually I didn’t venture much past the Senate, once you went to work that was your area where you worked and there wasn’t a lot that took you out of it apart from going to the post office or having a meal or something like that. That was where you worked. We didn’t always sit at our desk we could go and sit in a lounge or something like that at times if we weren’t busy. No that was about it. As I say we didn’t move around a lot, like you do when you’re a stenographer you’ve got things to deliver. I remember going down to the photocopying place one day and photocopying something on those machines. The mechanical photocopying but once you’re in the Senate side, no you didn’t move much.
M Dempster: Did any of the jobs you had involve you in travel?
B Hunt: No, but ministerial typists did travel with their men. No I never ever took a job on which were one of those. Hansard did have, committees used to travel up to Papua New Guinea and interstate and sometimes they’d take a team of typists if they wanted the transcript pretty well straight away. Most of the committees that went interstate, the reporters dictated, what they called turns, into a tape and then they brought them back and we transcribed them. Big affairs they used to take House typists but not so much in my time actually, my time when I was on the House, but when I was with the tape transcript area, the girls who worked on the House, they used to go away with the reporters and transcribe them as they came out of the committees. I never did, no, being married and with children that’s your main priority. I really didn’t get the opportunity if I think correctly to do it, but I don’t think I would have gone anyway.
We did go down to Sydney to be trained on the word processors, about four of us went down and were trained on the word processors and came back and taught the others sort of thing. But no travel.
M Dempster: Would you say by enlarge Old Parliament House was a good place to work?
B Hunt: Yes, as I said before, we used to ride our bikes in the early days and there were bike racks we used to leave our bikes. In fact we used to go down to the Manuka pool for a swim at lunchtime. We used to talk to people through the window. I was on the east side. It was self-contained. If you wanted to bank you could bank, if you wanted to go to the post office, if you wanted to read the papers, if you wanted anything in the library. It was a very lovely building [laughs]. It’s nice to go to a nice building to work. That’s really why I think it was a great place to work in.
M Dempster: Did you find all the people congenial?
B Hunt: I never had any problems with anybody. I mean you could hear it going on in the House and I think some people feel they’ve had a few injustices done to them, but they’re only minor. I can’t remember there being any great hiccups but then again it’s over a long period. I probably forgot them, they probably weren’t important. I found it very congenial. I found the Hansard reporters were very gentlemanly people. They were a different breed, that was what they did. It was really specialized work being a shorthand writer and transcribing. I think everybody — I think the atmosphere of the House probably helped people feel more congenial because it was a very pleasant place to be I found. I suppose people got hassled sometimes but all in all I felt it was.
M Dempster: Did that hold good when you were working in the Press Gallery? As you mentioned earlier private enterprise and therefore …
B Hunt: The memory’s a bit vague there. The people I worked with were fine. They were always good to me. They didn’t lose their temper or anything like that, because they were out of the office a lot getting what they wanted to do. There were a lot of handouts and they were all working madly on those. No, I’ve got no complaints about the people who worked there. Herschel Hurst was one of them. He was a nice man. He worked for the Melbourne Sun, I think he worked for the Melbourne Sun. Reid was another one …
M Dempster: Alan Reid?
B Hunt: No, Elgin Reid I think his name is for the Courier Mail. I might have his Christian name wrong. Stevens he was a fellow from the, I can’t remember his Christian name so he was Mr, he worked for the Adelaide paper. I think Bob, he was Secretary to the Press Gallery at one stage, he was up there working for the Brisbane Telegraph, Bonython or something like that. I think that was his name. No, they were all pretty good. I think Frank Chamberlain had just left, that’s what makes me a bit doubtful if it might have been a Sydney paper that he was working for. Anyway, all in all I was happy there except sometimes being left — has everybody gone. They weren’t inclined to say, we’re all going, pack up when you’re finished or something like that, you used your own initiative. Sometimes you’d come in on Sunday and there was absolutely nobody around the House and so it was a little bit eerie at times. I do remember that.
M Dempster: So you would need to come in on a Sunday to catch up with work?
B Hunt: Yes, there must have been some reason I had to come. I know I had to type the members movements for the week, that was usually a Friday and send that interstate. That was all the members or all the ministers, where they’d be in such and such a date. It was very difficult when you’re typing on a tape that just has holes in it and so you’re not too sure you’ve done it correctly or not. But there must have been something that I had to come in of a Sunday for, to check or send, or something like that but I really am a bit vague about that. I do remember everything was quiet. You’d make your way up to the Press. It was like a little rabbit warren up there, little narrow corridors and tiny rooms and overcrowded and all that sort of stuff.
M Dempster: When you left and you were the last one to leave, were there still other people in the building?
B Hunt: There was always someone on the door, you always went out the front door and there was always someone on the front door. I don’t know how long they would stay there whether that would be — I don’t even remember signing in to let them know I was there. That would be interesting wouldn’t it. I never ever got locked in [laughs] spend the night there or anything like that. I can’t remember why I left that job.
I know I went to work over at the Menzies library in 1966 and stayed there until ’70, so between ’61 and ’66 I must have decided to give away the Press Gallery but I can’t remember why or how or anything like that. It might have got too much. I don’t know.
M Dempster: At any stage in any of the jobs did you find the working conditions onerous? Now you’ve mentioned the late nights and whatnot which could be a hassle but you worked through some of those. But were there any other working conditions that you find difficult, onerous, unrealistic?
B Hunt: Well there was an uncertainty about how long you were going to work. Like with the Estimates Committees they were held at Parliament House and they were recorded down at the printing office where we were. They were directly recorded. You’d heave a sigh when, what’s the name, Senator Bjelke-Petersen would ask another question, or Bronwyn Bishop would get on a subject and kept pounding the departmental offices about a certain thing. You’d think, I wish she’d go home because we had to finish them that night, so there was a bit of uncertainty about it all. Well the reason I kept coming back was because I found it all so congenial. So apart from panics occasionally to get things done, apart from those sort of things, no I didn’t, no.
M Dempster: Now you said that you actually finished in ’89, does that mean you actually moved up to the new building?
B Hunt: No, well see, we didn’t we were down at the printing office you see. We were still working for Hansard and when they built the new House there wasn’t room for us, of all things. They have incorporated it now. They are doing things entirely different with the girls work on both committees and the House I believe. The printing office ceased to operate at a certain time but no, the only time I went to the new Parliament House was to monitor for a committee, or if we were called up there for some little thing. I never worked from the new Parliament House.
M Dempster: Now you’ve mentioned working at the printing office and also up in the Senate wing, what proportion of time would you think you’d spent?
B Hunt: The majority of the time was spent at the printing office, I would say.
M Dempster: That’s while you were with Hansard?
B Hunt: While I was with Hansard from 1970 to ’89. I’d say the majority of the time was spent …
M Dempster: But obviously in the Press Gallery you were here and your first jobs here were real …
B Hunt: Yes that’s right so really I wasn’t here much. I mean I was back and forward a lot, the odd days and things like that. Sometimes reporters wanted to train, they were just coming in to being accepted and they used to send us up to type their transcript to give them practice, little things like that. Then occasionally we’d work on the House for a week, if someone was missing, but I would say that at least eight-five percent of the time, to ninety percent was spent down at the printing office. It was all land lined and that sort of thing. So really I wasn’t in the House all that much. Sometimes they’d have someone delving into the way the Joint House worked or something like that and they’d ask for a typist to come up and type for those sort of people. So it was all very spasmodic the business up here then, but I never felt remote from it really because I was up often enough to participate. I think that ends my time at Parliament House [laughs].
M Dempster: [laughs] Yes, and you get quite sentimental about it. I am aware that you do visit reasonably often.
B Hunt: Yes, I do actually, yes because I think the setup here with the different shows, like the cartoons. I’ve had a look at that and I’ve been into the Portrait Gallery and I have been to literary lunches here and then I often go to the café but not that often really here. I am here off and on.
M Dempster: What’s your sense, your feeling as your walk in the door.
B Hunt: Grandeur still, at home. I feel as though I know it well but I really like the way it’s all been restored. I like the courtyards and the feel of looking over the balcony. I haven’t been — I don’t know if downstairs is accessible anymore.
M Dempster: There is one area they call the Stranger’s Gallery and I’ll tell you about an exhibition down there in a minute.
B Hunt: Yes, but apart from the shop and the café. A lot of my time there was a lot of memorabilia in my time, pictures and coins, under glass. I can remember it was something to look at down there. I think probably it was a bit of a tourist — if tourists came in they were able to go in and see lots of things down there. I just remember the time the Press Stops here and coming in the side doors and that sort of thing. I just feel familiar with it that’s all really.
M Dempster: That’s really great.
B Hunt: That’s about it.
M Dempster: Well thank you Beryl, that’s really interesting. It’s all very helpful actually.
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