Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Smith, Christine Idris (1946–1979)

by Kerry Regan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Christine Idris Smith (1946-1979), skier and interior decorator, was born on 13 December 1946 at Cooma, New South Wales, only child of Gordon Edward Irvine Smith, clerk, and his wife Eunice, née Sturgeon, both of whom were born in New South Wales. Educated at St Patrick's Brigidine convent school, Cooma, and Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls, Moss Vale, Christine lived on her maternal family's property at Berridale, close to the snowfields, and learned to ski at an early age.

In January 1962 Smith competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Winter Games at St Moritz, Switzerland. A member of the Australian team at the 1964 Winter Olympic Games, held at Innsbruck, Austria, she was placed 28th in the slalom and 27th in the downhill: her performances were affected by the death of a fellow competitor Ross Milne in the downhill practice. She had wins at home in the 1964 Australian National Alpine Ski Championships (slalom, downhill and giant slalom) and the Thredbo Cup (1963 and 1964). While recuperating from a skiing accident in Europe in 1965, she taught 'The Beatles' to ski for their film, Help, and performed in a short skiing sequence. She was unplaced in the 1966 World Ski Championships at Portillo, Chile.

Pre-selected for the 1968 Olympics at Grenoble, France, Smith did not compete when the team was reduced from four to one for the downhill events. She retired from international competition, taught skiing briefly at the dry ski-slope at Brookvale, Sydney, and then instructed children at Thredbo.

In 1974 she established Christine Smith Interiors Pty Ltd. She specialized in bathroom accessories, which she sold from her shop at St Peters, Sydney. Two years later she moved to Bay Street, Double Bay. Described by those in the fashion business as inventive, she added stuffed birds to the décor of one bathroom and used silvery wallpaper and luxuriant plants in another. She gained some notoriety at an interior designer's exhibition with her design for a black bathroom, complete with a nude dummy draped over the bath.

A long-haired blonde with an 'all-Australian girl next door' image, Smith was a stylish and aggressive skier who benefited from overseas competition, but was held back by injury and lack of support. She appeared in fashion magazines and television advertisements promoting ski fashions and products. In 1977 she married an advertising executive Wayne Arthur Garland at Farmington, United States of America; they were to remain childless. She moved her shop to Bondi Junction in 1979, hoping to benefit from the opening of the Eastern Suburbs railway. The opening was delayed.

Depressed by the downturn of her business, Smith committed suicide by swallowing chloralhydrate and paracetamol with salicylic acid on 8 May 1979 in a motel at Crows Nest. She was buried in Berridale cemetery, close to the skifields. In an article published posthumously in the fashion magazine, Sheila, she likened skiing to a trip in which 'you reach this curious state between being totally alert and aware of your own body, and being drunk in a dream. Sometimes I feel that if I made a mistake and went over a crevice, I'd be quite happy, just to die like that'.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Wynne (ed), Bathrooms: The Best of Australian Home Journal's Decorating Ideas (Syd, 1978)
  • Ski Australia, Oct, Nov 1961, Aug 1964, Dec 1967, Oct 1968
  • Vogue Living, 15 June-14 Aug 1976, p 64
  • Sheila, Winter, no 2, 1979, p 22
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Feb 1962, 8 Dec 1963, 24 Aug 1964, 17 July 1966, 7 Aug 1971, 26 Oct 1978, 20 May 1979
  • Sun (Sydney), 15, 16 May 1979
  • private information.

Citation details

Kerry Regan, 'Smith, Christine Idris (1946–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-christine-idris-11720/text20951, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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