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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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Dora Constance Riddle (1911–1989)

by L. T. Carron

It was Harry Luke who said it to me the other night. “Dammit; forestry’s not just about trees, it’s about people too”.

Dora Riddle was one of those people. She died in Canberra on 6 May 1989.

Max Jacobs persuaded her to take on the catering for the AFS students in 1947. After a series of small ship’s and shearer’s cooks at various stages of alcoholism in the hurly-burly of “post war reconstruction”, she brought grace, calm and culinary excellence to our lives. Born in rural Canberra and for a time maid-cook at Government House, she, Joe Riddle and their lovely kids, lived close behind the student quarters at Yarralumla. Joe was on the Bureau field staff. We fought the war all over again on his home-brew at times when night and minds were dark.

For the next eighteen or so years, full-time at first and part-time later, Dora, with Joe’s help, cooked for, counselled and cossetted students of the AFS, den-mother to Andy Wood’s major-domo. Mainstay of successive social functions, and national and international conferences, she wooed the hearts as well as the stomachs of a vast array of students all the while nurturing her family in a spotlessly-kept home and a beautiful garden, and blessing countless organisations with her good sense, personal warmth and enormous energy. When the AFS moved to the ANU in 1965, she came as joint chemical store officer and tea lady: and slowly, under her gentle persuasion of the authorities and enviable sleight of hand, the chemical store became the attractive tea-room the Department has today. She left in the late 1960’s; there were so many other people she wanted to help, so many other things she wanted to do with the time left to her.

We saw each other occasionally—as we old Yarralumla forestry folk loved to do. I saw her a few weeks ago at the physiotherapist we shared. Her tall frame had thickened and her back was bent with the loads she had placed upon it over all those active years. But still the gorgeous smile that lit her face, and the air around it too. I gave her a hug and a kiss,—I’m glad I did; I was never to see her again. Forestry is about people, too. Right on, Harry.

Original publication

Citation details

L. T. Carron, 'Riddle, Dora Constance (1911–1989)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 4 March 2024.

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