Never too late: 'I was one of the oldest ones there, and I also had no hair. But it was wonderful'
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Name: Allison Barnes
Public servant turned visual artist
When I left school I trained as a teacher. Back in those days, teaching was what girls from the country did: teaching or nursing.
When I graduated, in the early 80s, there were no jobs for teachers at all. There was a recession. I was underemployed for years; did casual teaching, worked in a bank, cleaned houses, did screen printing at a factory, sold photographs in Kings Cross, worked in catering and as a security guard. Then finally I got a job in the public service, at the Royal Australian Mint, in Canberra. When I was there I heard of the Office of the Status of Women and I thought “I want to do that”. I managed to get transferred to Office and I worked there for about eight years. That was, for me, a very big break. Following that I worked in policy and research for all of my career, in a whole lot of different areas in the public service.
I thought to myself, if that’s the best thing I can say about this, why am I here?
It was great. I could work on really interesting things. I really loved it. While I was working, I became aware of how little superannuation women had, so I decided that I would try to make sure that my own retirement income was OK. I always intended to go at 55, when I was allowed to access my super. When I got to 55 I had done 30 years, and that felt like plenty. I felt like a change and I took up a redundancy package.……
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