In the 25 March 2013 edition of his Gang-Gang column, Canberra Times journalist Ian Warden wrote about what he considered one of the highlights of the NFSA’s Imagining the Capital: Canberra on Film screening; footage of a 1973 beauty contest known as Lady of the Lake:
Gang-Gang has to know and report more about this lost ritual! […] Is there anyone who ever attended the occasion who can reminisce about it and/or who knows the history of the event? When did it end?
Following a day of intense research, we have answers to Ian’s questions. Not only that, we have published the full Lady of the Lake segment, of which only a few seconds were screened at our 10 March event.
Canberra’s Cathy James, from Griffith, was the winner of the Lady of the Lake competition held as part of the Aquatic Carnival. The Aquatic Carnival was one of the events in the Canberra Week program of 1973, and held in and around Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin on Saturday 17 March 1973. The Aquatic Festival, organised in just three weeks by the ACT Health Services National Fitness Council, attracted 8,000 visitors to the lake area to watch various water and aerial displays and competitions.
The competition was, according to Judge Jo Spencer in Canberra Times 19 March 1973, “to be judged differently from normal fashion quests, the object being that it reflect the natural mood of the day”.
The winner was selected from a final group of 15 Canberra beauties: Miss Margaret Keleris, 21, Page, Miss Narelle Ezzy, 20 Red Hill, Mrs Joanne Cox, 22, Lyneham, Miss Christine Suchocko, 23, Braddon, Mrs Janice Trainer, 23, Macgregor, Miss Denise Powell, 16, Holder, Mrs Irene Lord, 22 Higgins, Mrs Brenda McHarg, 22, Weetangera, Miss Sandra Hithins, 23, Mawson, Miss Marilyn Thompson, 18, Turner, Miss Perrie Morris, 17, O’Connor, Mrs Shelia Crook, 19, Holt, Miss Marilyn Kelleher, 18, Chifley, Mrs Julie Beattie, 23, Holder.
Cathy James was presented her sash by one of the other judges, Kep Enderby, Minister for the Capital Territory.