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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Val Davies (1933–2000)

by John Farquharson

In-house at the Canberra Times, Val Davies, who has died in Townsville, aged 66, became something of an advertising department institution.

This was because for some 13 years of the 20 she was at the paper she prepared the ‘dummies’ (a scaled miniature plan of each day’s paper showing the advertising content and the space available for editorial matter) and it was enshrined lore that nobody could do it as well as she did.

In this role, she had to liaise on a daily basis with both composing-room staff and the appropriate editorial executives. The first woman to be assigned to this job on the Canberra Times, all the predictions were that she would never be able to get on with the comp room or editorial. But she soon won their respect and succeeded so well that she was in the job throughout most of her employment. Moreover, she was not allowed to train anyone else.

Val joined the Canberra Times in 1968 during the early years of the Fairfax ownership. The then advertising manager, Ken Douglas, took her on as a booking clerk. However, it was not long before Val, on the strength of her previous advertising experience, was given the task of drawing up the ‘dummies’. As well as bringing a professional flair to the task, the key to Val’s success was her personality. Diminutive, lively, always ready with a sharp rejoinder to any jibe or blustering protest – and there were plenty of them – her response was invariably so disarming that flare-ups subsided amicably.
Before getting married, Val, who was born in Brisbane, worked at the now defunct Brisbane Telegraph, initially as a secretary/typist for the circulation manager before moving into advertising. In those days she was a keen swimmer and tennis player and was a member of the CMF (Citizen Military Forces, which equates with today’s Army Reserve). Married in June 1955, she soon moved with her soldier husband, Doug Moore, from Brisbane to Toowoomba and into married quarters at Cabarlah barracks. There the first two of her four children were born, before the family moved to Singapore on a three-year Army posting.

In Singapore, Val worked for a British advertising agency, which closed when independence was imminent. She then turned to sell real estate on Queensland’s Gold Coast to Singaporean and Malay nationals. During that time she joined the RAF Seletar (amateur) Theatre Club and was in the cast of  the pantomime ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ as well as working behind scenes for other productions.

Upon returning to Australia, the family moved to Canberra. She joined the Canberra Times a few years after the birth in 1963 of her fourth child. Of her years at the Canberra Times, Val said in an interview for the paper’s 70th anniversary, that ‘every day was a funny day’. She recalled how every afternoon at 3pm and 5pm a measure was taken of the classified advertisements. This was done by the day printer with a ball of string. One day, just as the measure was being completed, she walked into the comp room and tripped over the printer’s ball of string and it slipped out of his hands. ‘It was not a pretty sight’, she remembered, and ‘tempers became frayed as the count had to be done again’.

At that time David Jones was among the bigger advertisers. One day DJs arranged a special deal, whereby they would have eight consecutive full pages – something that had not been done before. Val recalled how the editor of the day, John Allan, stood at the door of the advertising manager’s office and said, ‘I come more in sorrow than in anger. What’s the score? I’ve never seen this before’. When he was told it was a special deal, he said, ‘Do you think if I phoned David Jones, they might sell me some space on some of their pages?’

After her first marriage broke up, Val remarried in 1980 long-serving Canberra Times compositor Alan Davies. Before the paper moved to Fyshwick, Val relinquished her role preparing the ‘dummies’ and became an advertising representative, selling space for display advertising. Until shortly before the move to Fyshwick, she was in fact the only woman in display advertising. Those who worked with Val found her a warm hearted, fun-loving colleague ever ready to participate in and very often help organise staff social activities.

She and Alan retired about the same time in 1988. In retirement they took time to travel around various parts of Australia. They were on just such a trek in northern Queensland when Val took ill. She died shortly after being admitted to Townsville General Hospital.

She is survived by her husband, Alan, first husband, Doug Moore, her four children, Jo-Anne, Tracey, Craig and Kirk, and stepchildren, Trevor, Jenny, Roslyn and their families.

Val Davies, born September 28 1933; died August 29 2000.

Original publication

Citation details

John Farquharson, 'Davies, Val (1933–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moore, Val

28 September, 1933


29 August, 2000 (aged 66)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia