Canberra – Australia
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia’s largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney, and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne. A resident of Canberra is known as a “Canberran”.
The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation’s capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities, being an entirely planned city. Following an international contest for the city’s design, a blueprint by the Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. The Griffins’ plan featured geometric motifs such as circles, hexagons and triangles, and was centred around axes aligned with significant topographical landmarks in the Australian Capital Territory.
The city’s design was heavily influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation that have earned Canberra the title of the “bush capital”. The growth and development of Canberra were hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, which exacerbated a series of planning disputes and the ineffectiveness of a sequence of bodies that were to oversee the development of the city. The national capital emerged as a thriving city after World War II, as Prime Minister Robert Menzies championed its development and the National Capital Development Commission was formed with executive powers. Although the Australian Capital Territory is now self-governing, the federal government retains some influence through the National Capital Authority.
As the seat of the government of Australia, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court and numerous government departments and agencies. It is also the location of many social and cultural institutions of national significance, such as the Australian War Memorial, Australian National University, Australian Institute of Sport, National Gallery, National Museum and the National Library. The Australian Army’s officer corps are trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy is also located in the capital.
As the city has a high proportion of public servants, the federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra. As the seat of government, the unemployment rate is lower and the average income higher than the national average, while property prices are relatively high, in part due to comparatively restricted development regulations. Tertiary education levels are higher, while the population is younger.
The word “Canberra” is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry and mean “meeting place” in the old Ngunnawal language of the local Ngabri people. The Ngunnawal name was apparently used as a reference to corroborees held during the seasonal migration of the Ngunnawal people to feast on the Bogong moths that pass through the region each spring.
Alternatively, the name was reported by Queanbeyan newspaper owner John Gale in the 1860s to be an anglicisation of the indigenous name ‘nganbra’ or ‘nganbira’, meaning “hollow between a woman’s breasts”, and referring to the Sullivans Creek floodplain between Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain. Support for this alternate meaning comes from the fact that Joshua Moore’s original “Canberry” property on Acton peninsula, named as such in the 1820s, was very close to the Sullivans Creek floodplain, and that an early map of the Limestone Plains compiled Major Mitchell in his role as Surveyor-General clearly marks Sullivans Creek and its floodplain above the junction with the Molonglo River as ‘nganbra’.
Before European settlement, the area in which Canberra would eventually be constructed was seasonally inhabited by Indigenous Australians. Anthropologist Norman Tindale suggested the principal group occupying the region were the Ngunnawal people, while the Ngarigo lived immediately to the south of the ACT, The Wandandian to the east, the Walgulu also to the south, Gandangara people to the north, and Wiradjuri to the north west. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the region includes inhabited rock shelters, rock paintings and engravings, burial places, camps and quarry sites, and stone tools and arrangements. The evidence suggests human habitation in the area for at least 21,000 years.
European exploration and settlement started in the Canberra area as early as the 1820s. There were four expeditions between 1820 and 1824. White settlement of the area probably dates from 1824, when a homestead or station was built on what is now the Acton peninsula by stockmen employed by Joshua John Moore. He formally purchased the site in 1826, and named the property “Canberry”.
The European population in the Canberra area continued to grow slowly throughout the 19th century. Among them was the Campbell family of “Duntroon”; their imposing stone house is now the officers’ mess of the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The Campbells sponsored settlement by other farmer families to work their land, such as the Southwells of “Weetangera”.Other notable early settlers included the inter-related Murray and Gibbes families, who owned the Yarralumla estate—now the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia—from the 1830s through to 1881.
The oldest surviving public building in the inner-city is the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, in the suburb of Reid, which was consecrated in 1845. St John’s churchyard contains the earliest graves in the district. As the European presence increased, the indigenous population dwindled, mainly from disease such as smallpox and measles.
The district’s change from a New South Wales (NSW) rural area to the national capital started during debates over Federation in the late 19th century. Following a long dispute over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the national capital, a compromise was reached: the new capital would be built in New South Wales, so long as it was at least 100 miles (160 km) from Sydney, with Melbourne to be the temporary seat of government (but not referred to as the “capital”) while the new capital was built.
Canberra covers an area of 814.2 square kilometres (314.3 sq. mi) and is located near the Brindabella Ranges, approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) inland from Australia’s east coast. It has an elevation of approximately 580 metres (1,900 ft) AHD; the highest point is Mount Majura at 888 metres (2,913 ft). Other large hills include Mount Taylor, Mount Ainslie, Mount Mugga Mugga and Black Mountain.
The native forest in the Canberra region was almost wholly eucalypt species and provided a resource for fuel and domestic purposes. By the early 1960s, logging had depleted the eucalypt, and concern about water quality led to the forests being closed. Interest in forestry began in 1915 with trials of a number of species including Pinus radiata on the slopes of Mount Stromlo. Since then, plantations have been expanded, with the benefit of reducing erosion in the Cotter catchment, and the forests are also popular recreation areas.
The urban environs of the city of Canberra straddle the Ginninderra plain, Molonglo plain, the Limestone plain, and the Tuggeranong plain (Isabella’s Plain). The Molonglo River which flows across the Molonglo plain has been dammed to form the national capital’s iconic feature Lake Burley Griffin. The Molonglo then flows into the Murrumbidgee north-west of Canberra, which in turn flows north-west toward the New South Wales town of Yass. The Queanbeyan River joins the Molonglo River at Oaks Estate just within the ACT.
A number of creeks, including Jerrabomberra and Yarralumla Creeks, flow into the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee. Two of these creeks, the Ginninderra and Tuggeranong, have similarly been dammed to form Lakes Ginninderra and Tuggeranong. Until recently the Molonglo River had a history of sometimes calamitous floods; the area was a flood plain prior to the filling of Lake Burley Griffin.
Canberra has a relatively dry continental climate with warm to hot summers and cool to cold winters. Canberra experiences warm, quite dry summers, and chilly winters with heavy fog and frequent frosts. Snow is rare in the CBD but the surrounding areas get annual snowfall through winter and often the snow capped mountains can be seen from the CBD. The highest recorded maximum temperature was 42.2 °C (108.0 °F) on 1 February 1968.
The lowest recorded minimum temperature was −10 °C (14.0 °F) on 11 July 1971. Light snow often falls only once or twice per year but is usually not widespread and quickly dissipates. Canberra is protected from the west by the Brindabellas which create a slight rain shadow in Canberra’s valleys.
Annual rainfall is the third lowest of the capital cities (after Adelaide and Hobart), but is spread fairly evenly over the seasons, with late spring bringing the highest rainfall. Thunderstorms occur mostly between October and April, due to the effect of summer and the mountains. The area is not very windy and the breeze is at its strongest from August to November. Canberra is less humid than the nearby coastal areas.
Canberra is a planned city and the inner-city area was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a major 20th century American architect. Within the central area of the city near Lake Burley Griffin, major roads follow a wheel-and-spoke pattern rather than a grid. Griffin’s proposal had an abundance of geometric patterns, including concentric hexagonal and octagonal streets emanating from several radii. However, the outer areas of the city, built later, are not laid out geometrically.
Lake Burley Griffin was deliberately designed so that the orientation of the components was related to various topographical landmarks in Canberra. The lakes stretch from east to west and divided the city in two; a land axis perpendicular to the central basin stretches from Capital Hill—the eventual location of the new Parliament House on a mound on the southern side—north northeast across the central basin to the northern banks along Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial. This was designed so that looking from Capital Hill, the War Memorial stood directly at the foot of Mount Ainslie. At the southwestern end of the land axis was Bimberi Peak, the highest mountain in the ACT, approximately 52 km south west of Canberra.
The straight edge of the circular segment that formed the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin was perpendicular to the land axis and designated the water axis, and it extended northwest towards Black Mountain. A line parallel to the water axis, on the northern side of the city, was designated the municipal axis. The municipal axis became the location of Constitution Avenue, which links City Hill in Civic Centre and both Market Centre and the Defence precinct on Russell Hill. Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue were to run from the southern side from Capital Hill to City Hill and Market Centre on the north respectively, and they formed the western and eastern edges of the central basin. The area enclosed by the three avenues was known as the Parliamentary Triangle, and formed the centrepiece of Griffin’s work.
The Griffins assigned spiritual values to Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, and Red Hill and originally planned to cover each of these in flowers. That way each hill would be covered with a single, primary color which represented its spiritual value. This part of their plan never came to fruition, as World War I slowed construction and planning disputes led to Walter’s dismissal by Prime Minister Billy Hughes after the war ended.
In early 2010, the unemployment rate in Canberra stood at 3.9% which is substantially lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.3%.As a result of low unemployment and substantial levels of public sector and commercial employment, Canberra has the highest average level of disposable income of any Australian capital city. The gross average weekly wage in Canberra is $1,392 compared with the national average of $1,223.30 (November 2009).
The median house price in Canberra as of September 2009 was $511,820, lower than only Sydney among capital cities of more than 100,000 people, having surpassed Melbourne and Perth since 2005. The median weekly rent paid by Canberra residents is higher than rents in all other states and territories. As at the March quarter of 2009 the median rent in Canberra was $420 per week, the third highest in the country. Factors contributing to this higher weekly rental market include; higher average weekly incomes, restricted land supply, and inflationary clauses in the ACT Residential Tenancies Act.
The city’s main industry is government administration and defence, which accounted for 31% of Gross Territory Product in 2008–09 and employed over 40% of Canberra’s workforce. A number of Australian Defence Force establishments are located in or near Canberra, most notably the Australian Defence Force headquarters and HMAS Harman, which is a naval communications centre that is being converted into a tri-service, multi-user depot.
The former RAAF Fairbairn, adjacent to the Canberra International Airport was sold to the operators of the Airport, but the base continues to be used for RAAF VIP flights. A growing number of independent software vendors have based themselves in Canberra, to capitalise on the concentration of government customers; these include Tower Software and RuleBurst. A consortium of private and government investors is currently making plans for a billion-dollar data hub, with the aim of making Canberra a leading centre of such activity in the Asia-Pacific region.
Canberra is home to many national monuments and institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library, the National Archives, the Australian Academy of Science and the National Museum. Many Commonwealth government buildings in Canberra are open to the public, including Parliament House, the High Court and the Royal Australian Mint.
Lake Burley Griffin is the site of the Captain James Cook Memorial and the National Carillon. Other sites of interest include the Black Mountain Tower, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the National Zoo and Aquarium, the National Dinosaur Museum and Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre.
The Canberra Museum and Gallery in the city is a repository of local history and art. Several historic homes are open to the public: Lanyon and Tuggeranong Homesteads in the Tuggeranong Valley, Mugga-Mugga in Symonston, and Blundells’ Cottage in Parkes all display the lifestyle of the early European settlers. Calthorpes’ House in Red Hill is a well preserved example of a 1920s house from Canberra’s very early days. Canberra has many venues for live music and theatre: the Canberra Theatre and Playhouse which hosts many major concerts and productions; and Llewellyn Hall (within the ANU School of Music), a world-class concert hall are two of the most notable. The Street Theatre is a venue with less mainstream offerings. The Albert Hall was the city’s first performing arts venue, opened in 1928. It was the original performance venue for theatre groups such as the Canberra Repertory Society.
Stonefest at the University of Canberra is a large two-day music festival. There are numerous bars and nightclubs which also offer live entertainment, particularly concentrated in the areas of Dickson, Kingston and the city. Most town centres have facilities for a community theatre and a cinema, and they all have a library. Popular cultural events include the National Folk Festival, the Royal Canberra Show, the Summernats car festival, the Canberra Multicultural Festival in February and the Celebrate Canberra festival held over 10 days in March in conjunction with Canberra Day.
Canberra maintains sister-city relationships with both Nara, Japan and Beijing, China. Canberra has friendship-city relationships with both Dili, East Timor and Hangzhou, China. City-to-city relationships encourage communities and special interest groups both locally and abroad to engage in a wide range of exchange activities. The Canberra Nara Candle Festival held annually in spring, is a community celebration of the Canberra Nara Sister City relationship. The festival is held in Canberra Nara Park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.