29 March 2023

Judy loves her life in Canberra, and with the help of Life Without Barriers’ Aged Care home services, she continues to live independently as a popular member of her community.

Image: Judy, wearing tan pants, a cream shirt with a pink and orange floral pattern and rose-coloured glasses, sits in a chair, smiling at the camera.

While most of Australia knows Canberra as the home of politics, to Judy, it’s always been her home, her community and her life since she was born 81 years ago in the old Canberra Hospital.

Judy had a good childhood in Canberra. She has always been naturally sociable, popular and connected to her community. In her youth, Judy was involved in many clubs, including the Catholic Youth Club.

On most weekends, the Youth Club held rock and roll dances. A young man called George had just moved to Canberra from the country, and because he did not know too many people, the priest who organised the Youth Club asked Judy to keep an eye on him.

“He wasn’t a good dancer – well, he could ballroom dance because that is what they did in the country, but he could not rock and roll,” Judy remembers.

“I thought to myself, ‘why am I always the person that’s got to introduce people to other people?’ But I did, and that’s how it started. We had a lovely relationship – life then was so easy and so safe,” said Judy.

Judy joined the typing pool for the Department of Custom and Excise, and quickly rose to becoming the secretary for the Minister. George joined the Australian Federal Police. The couple married in 1964 and bought a block of land in Hughes.

“It was a new area then. Many young couples who bought there had children around the same time. That lot of children are still friends now. Some still come to visit me, bringing a piece of cake, or they come to see if everything is alright. It’s really lovely, the connection,” Judy shared.

After having two sons, Judy worked at St Edmund’s College and St John’s Ambulance. She, along with two others, also started the Police Wives’ Club to help the many women who moved to Canberra when their husbands joined the Police Force. It still exists today, and Judy still attends their twice-yearly lunches.

A steady source of Judy’s happiness was her marriage to George.

“Back then, you went to balls – black and white balls, police balls – we went and enjoyed them all. I would dress to my best, and so did George. He would say how nice I looked. And every night through the years, he would say how nice I looked,” said Judy

“That’s not to say things went perfectly all the time - we didn’t always agree on everything - but he would always listen,” she added.

Image: Collage of images of Judy and George through the years, including a wedding photo and at many social events.

When George and Judy retired, they moved to an independent living unit at Southern Cross Homes and enjoyed the area and community there too.

“The health of George and myself had been, I would say, fair when we moved into Southern Cross. George had Leukemia and a bone marrow transplant, which made his health a little compromised, and a heart attack some years earlier did put him back a little.

"At 40, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus and lived with implications of this chronic disease ever since,” said Judy.

With their needs changing, in 2016, they started receiving Aged Care services from DUO Services (which later became Life Without Barriers).

“It was the beginning of a new life for both of us. Life Without Barriers has been a miracle to us. Over all these years, the services and care that has been given to George and I have been immeasurable,” said Judy.

George passed away without warning 18 months ago. After over 60 years together, Judy was suddenly alone.

“We were so close - I loved him dearly. He was tired, but he still kept caring for me. But after he died, he had done so much that I had to learn so much. I had no idea about the things he did in the house and for us.

"I did not know how to put petrol in the car, I didn’t know the car had to be registered, I did not know we had a key to the letterbox. I never did any of those things,” said Judy.

Judy said that if it were not for the help she gets from Life Without Barriers, she would have moved into the second stage of care that Southern Cross offers.

“I felt staying in the house would just be too much for me to manage. But with the help of Life Without Barriers, I have been able to stay here confidently, and I am so grateful."

"My package includes a host of things I just could not deal with, which makes my state of mind and living so very much smoother,” said Judy.

Judy gets help from Life Without Barriers with her gardening once a month. “I’ve got quite a big garden, and gardening is my passion,” she said.

She also has a cleaner, has help with shopping, and a personal care worker who gives her extra help where Judy needs - from putting on bedsheets to helping Judy organise her affairs.

“With all this assistance, I am so confident to go on at my home. I am blessed with having an invaluable Team Leader in Ruth. Her competence and care are so appreciated.

"Contact with Ruth is so smooth; she manages all my services very well and is always able to advise on any need I request. She recently organised a handrail outside my laundry, and a shower chair, and further back a walker - all of this done with follow-ups,” Judy said.

Today, Judy is as popular as ever. She reaps the rewards of a life spent nurturing friendships and being a part of many communities. Judy regularly keeps in touch with her family and network of friends, and she is pleased when she can welcome them into her home of fifteen years.

Judy still thinks of George often as she lives in this new chapter of her life. She keeps 30 letters he wrote to her when they were apart (while he was training interstate or when she was on election campaigns) tied with a ribbon in a wooden box.

“I don’t have to read them, but I know them. Beautiful letters, beautiful writing. It’s comforting to have them there,” said Judy.

“You will see also a little tin bracelet - it was one George got for me at the Canberra Show in 1959 (it has our names on it). He had kept it and was going to buy me a gold one on my 80th birthday, but he had gone to heaven by that date,” said Judy.

Image: The box of letters George wrote.

Ruth, Judy’s Life Without Barriers Case Manager, said it has been a pleasure to help Judy with the support she needs.

“It’s also been good to see her learn new things and build her confidence. George can’t be here for her anymore, but we are here to keep looking out for her,” said Ruth.

A person's story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward.

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