Gwendolyn Durst was given up for adoption shortly after her birth in 1943. Her mother has never been identified, having given a fake name at the hospital, but her father has: American soldier, and later real estate developer, Seymour Durst. Gwendolyn (‘Lyn’ to her friends) was the result of a passionate night spent together by her parents before her father was posted to the front. He never met his daughter, and she assumed for many years that he had perished during the war (because that was what the nuns told her had happened).

Gwendolyn was a good student with an innate entrepreneurial bent. In her high school’s graduating class, she was not voted “Most likely to succeed” only because in 1961 girls at her school were not eligible in that category. She quickly got a job as a secretary in a local real estate agency, and began working her way up. The Sixties were a heady time of promiscuity, drug use, political activism and artistic endeavours for many of Gwendolyn’s generation, but not for her: a teetotaler and virgin, she was concerned only with making money and obsessively re-reading the works of Ayn Rand.

At the end of her first decade in the real estate business, she was the owner and manager of a small network of four agencies spread across Melbourne’s south east, about to expand with fifth and sixth offices opening in Mornington and Sorrento, and looking to get into the property development market.

It was at this point in her life that she learned of her father’s identity, and of the uncanny parallels between their careers. She repeatedly tried to contact him, but Durst ignored her, believing her to be a liar and gold-digger (which was true, but not in this particular context). Gwendolyn became increasingly embittered with her father over the course of the following decade, but it was learning of his plans to construct a National Debt Clock in New York – an act that she considered a betrayal of the political and economic beliefs she had assumed that they shared – that drove her over the edge. The housing development she had intended to name after him was instead named for herself. Ayn Rand would have been proud.

Suburbs near Lyndhurst:

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