Encyclopedia > Canberra

  Article Content


Canberra is Australia's capital city, as well as its biggest inland city. Canberra's 320,000 residents live in a city originally planned by Walter Burley Griffin. With extensive parklands punctuated by landmark buildings, artificial lakes, and its many circle streets, it is perhaps understandable (though possibly unfair) that many Australians regard Canberra as a kind of surreal fantasyland removed from the realities of their own existence. A local government ban on residential front fences and an average income well above that of other Australian cities contribute to this attitude.

Suburbs in Canberra are in general named after famous Australians, and in particular politicians. Street names within each suburb also generally follow a particular theme. For instance, the streets of the suburb of Duffy are named after Australian dams and weirs, whilst the streets of Gowrie are named after Australian Victoria Cross winners.


The city's main industry is government and public service, with the Federal Parliament (shifted to a new building in 1988 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of white settlement), most government departments, the High Court, and many national monuments including the War Memorial and the National Museum there.

Canberra's second largest (and most noticeable) industry is tourism, with a large number of Australian and international visitors visiting the city each year. The most popular times are spring and autumn (fall), with the annual Floriade spring flower display (held each year in September/October) being the biggest. Other popular and noteworthy tourist spots in Canberra include the Parliamentary triangle (and in particular both the old and new Parliament Houses), monuments such as the War Memorial, and working national institutions like the Royal Australian Mint.

A legal anomaly allowing the legal production and mail-order sale of explicit pornographic videos has led to a thriving industry exporting them to the rest of Australia. This is regarded with much amusement by many Australians.


Prior to white settlement, the Canberra area was inhabited by the Ngunnawal and Ngarigo Aboriginal tribes. When white exploration and settlement began in the 1820s, however, their numbers began to dwindle, mainly from diseases such as smallpox and measles. By 1862, they had been largely reduced to half-castes. They held their last full corroboree by the Molonglo River in that year. The last full-blood Aborginal, Nellie Hamilton, died in Queanbeyan Hospital on January 1, 1897.

The district's change from a New South Wales rural area to being the national capital begain in the early 20th century. A political compromise during debates over Federation saw agreement that Australia's capital would be in a separate territory located in New South Wales and roughly half-way between Melbourne and Sydney. At the time, Melbourne was easily Australia's largest city and the obvious place for the capital. The western colonies—Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria—supported Melbourne. However, NSW (the largest colony) and (to a lesser extent) Queensland, favoured Sydney—which was older than Melbourne and the only other large city in Australia. Perhaps one or another of the two colonial capitals might have eventually been acceptable to the smaller states, but the Sydney-Melbourne rivaly was such that neither city would ever agree to to the other one becoming capital.

Eventually, an agreement was reached: Melbourne would be the capital on a temporary basis while a new capital was built somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne. Section 125 of the Constitution[?] specified that it must be north of the Murray River (placing it in NSW rather than Victoria) but at least 100 miles from Sydney.

After an extensive search, the present site, about 300 kilometres south-west of Sydney in the foothills of the Australian Alps, was chosen in 1908 as a result of survey work done by Government Surveyor Charles Scrivener in that year. The choice of site was a disputed one, and narrowly beat Dalgety, a small town near the NSW/Victoria border.

The NSW government ceded about 900 square miles, plus the Jervis Bay area, to the Commonwealth Government on January 1, 1910. In that same year, the ACT became an alcohol-free area as a result of legislation that politician King O'Malley[?] ran through Federal Parliament in Melbourne.

An international competition was held in 1911 by O'Malley to select a plan for the new city. A variety of names were suggested for the capital, including Olympus, Paradise, Captain Cook, Shakespeare and Myola. The name of Canberra ( meaning meeting place) was eventually settled upon. The city was officially given this name and building officially commenced on March 12, 1913.

Melbourne ceded control of the Federal government on May 9, 1927, with the opening of Parliament House (now known as the old Parliament House) in Canberra. Amongst its first acts was to repeal O'Malley's prohibition laws.

Also in 1927, the city centre was officially established. It was meant to be called Civic Centre, but then Prime Minister Stanley Bruce vetoed the idea and it became officially known as City Centre. However, City Centre is still commonly referred to as Civic.

Canberra's growth over the next several decades was slow, and was indeed a country town more than a capital. The National War Memorial was opened in 1941, and the Australian National University[?] in 1946. Lake Burley Griffin was filled up in 1964. In 1978, Bruce Stadium[?] was opened. The High Court was formally opened in 1980 and the National Gallery of Australia in 1982.

Canberra's population also grew slowly from this period, from 9,000 in 1930 to 13,000 in 1945, 39,000 in 1957, 146,000 in 1971 and 270,000 in 1988.

In May 9, 1988, a new larger Parliament House was opened on Capital Hill in State Circle, Parkes as part of Australia's bicentenary celebrations and Federal Parliament moved there. It has sat there since.

Also in 1988, the ACT was granted full self-government. In May, 1989, following elections held in 1988, a 17-member legislative assembly sat for the first time at its offices in London Circuit, Civic, Canberra. Its first government was led by Chief Minister Rosemary Follett.

In 2000, several Sydney 2000 soccer games were played at Bruce Stadium.

In 2001, the National Museum was opened. This followed a tragic history of construction in which a local Canberra girl, Katie Bender[?], was killed from flying debris in 1997 when the hospital previously on that spot was destroyed in a bungled demolition display. A small memorial was erected in her memory at the spot at Lake Burley-Griffin where she died.

On January 18, 2003, Canberra was attacked by a bushfire that destroyed up to 500 homes. The suburb of Duffy was especially affected, with some 200 homes burnt down there. Four people died in the flames.

External Sites

A scenic look (http://www.canberrahouse.com.au) of Canberra's architecture exists here.

This Australian ABC page (http://www.abc.net.au/news/features/aph/page01.htm) gives an account of the new Parliament House.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... urethral sphincter is the skeletal muscle that allows voluntary control over urination. In the human female, the urethra is about 1-1.5 inches (25-38 mm) long and ...

This page was created in 45.2 ms