A tale of a cobblestone courtyard and a dank courtroom

Work experience. Remember it? Back in Year 10, when you got to wear a tie and jacket and act all, well – grown up. It was a couple of weeks out of school – getting yourself to and from ‘work’, doing what you knew would be exciting stuff, taking the world on.

At 16.

The courtroom

Recently I had cause to recall where I did work experience in Year 10 in 1990. The second week was with a local lawyer, where I got, perhaps unsurprisingly, to file. I filed wills, I filed papers from near-endless piles of documents into other, near-endless banks of folios in filing cabinets. On my last day, I hit the big time, and got to tag along with the lawyer to the local magistrate’s court and see him try and defend a client in some minor case. I don’t recall the details, but I do recall vividly the client trying to interrupt the lawyer constantly and represent himself. I don’t think he (the client) was sober, and I don’t think he really cared. It was cold, dank and hardly the glamourous life I had naively imagined of an outer outer eastern suburban Melbourne lawyer leading. ‘Lilydale Law’ wasn’t the high powered zappy wowness of its namesake from LA.

Or maybe it was the filing that really didn’t engage me.

The courtyard

The first week, however, was very different. As a kid, you have dreams. Some kids dream of becoming footballers, or doctors, or maybe lawyers (without the filing). I wanted to get into journalism – badly (not that I wanted to get into bad journalism, mind you, but it’s all relative, isn’t it, Rupert). I digress. I was – and still remain – a huge fan of radio. On the weekends I wanted to commentate football and cricket; during the week, I wanted to be a radio journalist, senatorially reading the news, much like David Armstrong on 3AW (as he was then – and still is now). David had gone to my school. He was cool. I wanted his voice. At 16. Like I said, I had dreams…

In 1990 3AW was in mid LaTrobe Street. Such was my desire to get into the place, I turned up on the Monday, which happened to be a public holiday. They didn’t know what to do with me, so they sent to me the newsroom, across that cobblestone courtyard, past the studios. They had a stuffed toy called Warwick in the newsroom, and joy of joys, they gave me real work! – writing down what the stories were from 2GB in Sydney, making sure the papers were in the right order for the newsreader to read, and answering the phone. Later in the week I was sent out on a court story, and then a sports story with then sports director, Shane Healy, who showed me how he wrote his story, and used this incredible piece of technology that bedazzled me beyond words to get the story back into the newsroom – a mobile phone. The fact that it was a like a brick that had mated with a handbag made it even more cooler. I couldn’t go back to school and show this wonderful thing to my classmates, but by golly I would tell them.

Somewhere I still have my autograph book with Brett McLeod, Brian Smith, Colin Tyrus and David Armstrong’s autographs adorning it a few pages along from the cricket gods’ marks made by Boonie and Merv.

…and a reflection 21 years later

That week solidified my determination to get into journalism, and years later, I was offered a job with Fairfax. The next year, in Year 11, I took my school holidays and went and did a holiday placement with ABC radio news in Marland House in Bourke Street, and then a week at ABC-TV news at Ripponlea. Another blog for another time – though I will say my fortnight fuelled a lifelong love of party pies.

As the class on 1992 heads, ever more baldingly, to its twenty-year out reunion next year, I wonder how many of us who did work experience back in 1990 actually ended up in the industries or roles we’d gone and experienced, or had hoped? What changed along the way? Uni? TAFE? A job?

What did you do for work experience? Did you end up in the sector you worked it, or like me, did it give you a greater appreciation of the types of broader roles out there?

Is your answer today to the statement of ‘when I grow up I want to be….’ the same as it was back then?

And… whatever happened to Warwick the stuffed toy in the 3AW newsroom?!


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