Canberra is the capital city of Australia and with a population of over 332,000, is Australia's largest inland city. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory, 300 kilometres (190 ) southwest of Sydney, and 650 kilometres (400 mi) north-east of Melbourne. The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, the two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities as an entirely purpose-built, planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a design by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. 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 "bush capital". Although the growth and development of Canberra were hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, it emerged as a thriving city after World War II.

As the seat of the government of Australia, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments and agencies. It is also the location of several social and cultural institutions of national significance. The federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra (although it is no longer the employer of the majority of working Canberrans, as was once the case). Canberra is also a popular destination for domestic and international tourists.

Geography[edit | edit source]

Canberra covers an area of 2396.54 square kilometres (311.0 sq. mi) and is located near the Brindabella Ranges, approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) inland from Australia's east coast. It is located at altitudes that range from 550 metres to 700 metres (1,800 to 2,300 ft) AHD. The highest point is Mount Majura at 888 metres (2,913 ft). Other large hills include Mt Taylor, Mt Ainslie, Mt Mugga Mugga and Black Mountain. The surrounding bushland and the original bushland that Canberra was built in is a mixture of eucalyptus savanna, open grassland, scrubland, swamp, and dry eucalyptus forests.

The Molonglo River flows through Canberra and has been dammed to form the body of water in the centre of the city called 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 had a history of sometimes lethal floods; the area was a flood plain prior to the filling of Lake Burley Griffin.

Urban structure[edit | edit source]

Main article: Suburbs of Canberra

Canberra is a planned city that was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a major 20th century American architect. The city centre is laid out on two perpendicular axes: a water axis stretching along Lake Burley Griffin, and a ceremonial land axis stretching from Parliament House on Capital Hill north-eastward along ANZAC Parade to the Australian War Memorial at the foot of Mt Ainslie. The area known as the Parliamentary Triangle is formed by three of Burley Griffin's axes, stretching from Capital Hill along Commonwealth Avenue to the Civic Centre around City Hill, along Constitution Avenue to the Defence precinct on Russell Hill, and along Kings Avenue back to Capital Hill.

The urban areas of Canberra are organised into a hierarchy of districts, town centres, group centres, local suburbs as well as other industrial areas and villages. There are seven districts, each of which is divided into smaller suburbs, and most of which have a town centre which is the focus of commercial and social activities. The districts were settled in the following chronological order:

The North and South Canberra districts are substantially based on Walter Burley Griffin's designs. In 1967 the then National Capital Development Commission adopted the "Y Plan" which laid out future urban development in Canberra around a series of central shopping and commercial area known as the 'town centres' linked by freeways, the layout of which roughly resembled the shape of the letter Y, with Tuggeranong at the base of the Y and Belconnen and Gungahlin located at the ends of the arms of the Y. Development in Canberra has been closely regulated by government, not only through the town planning process, but also through the use of crown lease terms that have tightly limited the use of parcels of land. All land in the ACT is held on 99-year leases from the national government, although most leases are now administered by the Territory government.

Most suburbs have their own local shops, and are located close to a larger shopping centre serving a group of suburbs. Community facilities and schools are often also located near local shops or group shopping centres. Many of Canberra's suburbs are named after former Prime Ministers, famous Australians, early settlers, or use Aboriginal words for their title. Street names typically follow a particular theme; for example, the streets of Duffy are named after Australian dams and weirs, and the streets of Page are named after biologists and naturalists. Most diplomatic missions are located in the suburbs of Yarralumla, Deakin and O'Malley. There are three light industrial areas: the suburbs of Fyshwick, Mitchell and Hume.

Education[edit | edit source]

The two main tertiary institutions are the Australian National University (ANU) in Acton and the University of Canberra (UC) in Bruce. The ANU was established as a research university in 1946; it continues to have a strong research focus and is ranked among the best universities in the world in The Times Higher Education Supplement and the Shanghai Jiao Tong World University Rankings.[1] Both ANU and UC also have campuses interstate and overseas. There are also two religious university campuses in Canberra: Signadou in the North Canberra suburb of Watson is a campus of the Australian Catholic University; St Mark's Theological College adjacent to the Parliament House is a campus of Charles Sturt University.

The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and the Royal Military College, Duntroon are near the suburb of Campbell in Canberra's inner north-east. ADFA teaches military undergraduates and postgraduates and is officially a campus of the University of New South Wales; Duntroon provides Australian Army Officer training. Tertiary level vocational education is also available through the multi-campus Canberra Institute of Technology.

In February 2004 there were 140 public and non-governmental schools in Canberra; 96 were operated by the Government and 44 are non-Government. During 2006 the ACT Government announced closures of up to 39 schools, to take effect from the end of the school year and after a series of consultations the Government announced its "Towards 2020: Renewing Our Schools"[2] plan that closed some schools at the end of 2006 with more in 2007 and 2008, while consolidating school campuses and opening 'superschools' (large public schools for kindergarten through to year 12) through to 2020. Most suburbs are planned to include a primary school and a nearby preschool, and schools are usually located near open areas for play and sports. Preschool is not a compulsory year, but many children attend for the government-funded 12 hours a week (10.5 hours a week before 2006). Primary school consists of seven grades: kindergarten and years 1 to 6. From years 7 to 10 children attend high school and in years 11 to 12 attend a college, unlike NSW and Vic where high school comprises year 7 to year 12. The ACT has the highest retention rate in Australia with 89% of students who were enrolled in year 7 in 1999 being enrolled full-time in year 12 in 2004. This retention rate has declined from a peak in 1994 when the rate was nearly 5% more, probably because of poor job prospects for young people at that time compared with 2004.[3]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Arts and entertainment[edit | edit source]

Canberra is home to many national monuments and institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery currently housed at Old Parliament House, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia. 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 Cook Memorial and the National Carillon. Other sites of interest include the Telstra Tower and the Australian National Botanic Gardens on Black Mountain, the National Zoo and Aquarium on Scrivener Dam, the National Dinosaur Museum and Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre.

A copy of every book published in Australia is required by law to be held by the National Library of Australia

The Canberra Museum and Gallery in Civic 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 Blundell's 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. Duntroon House, in the suburb of Campbell, was one of the district's earliest homesteads and is now the officers' mess at Royal Military College; it is occasionally open to the public. Canberra has many venues for live music and theatre: the Canberra Theatre and Playhouse which host many major concerts and productions; and Llewellyn Hall (within the ANU School of Music), a world-class concert hall. The Street Theatre, also located at the Australian National University, hosts many amateur student and community theatre groups. Stonefest at the University of Canberra is Canberra's largest music festival. There are numerous bars and nightclubs which also offer live entertainment, particularly concentrated in the areas of Dickson, Kingston and the City Centre. 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 and the Celebrate Canberra festival which is held over 10 days in March in conjunction with Canberra Day.

Canberra has a number of sister cities, including Atlanta in the United States, Beijing in China, Dili in East Timor, Nara in Japan, and Versailles in France. Cultural exchange happens to some extent with each city. The largest community event associated with a sister city is the Canberra Nara Candle Festival which is held in October.

Media[edit | edit source]

As Australia's political centre, Canberra is an important centre for much of Australia's political reportage and thus all the major media organisations, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the commercial television networks, and the metropolitan newspapers maintain local bureaus. Many news organisations are represented in the "press gallery", a group of journalists who report on the national parliament. The National Press Club of Australia in Barton has regular television broadcasts of its weekly lunches at which a prominent guest, typically a politician, delivers a half-hour speech followed by a question-and-answer session.

Canberra has a daily newspaper, the Canberra Times, which was established in 1926, and some free weekly suburban and special interest publications. Canberra has free-to-air analogue television stations including two government funded (ABC and SBS) and three commercial stations (Prime, WIN and Southern Cross Ten) as well as two free-to-air digital services ABC2 and SBS News. Subscription (pay) television services are available from Foxtel via satellite service, and cable by local telecommunications company TransACT who also offer telephone and broadband internet services on their optical fibre cable network covering many suburbs.

A number of community radio stations broadcast in Canberra, including Radio 2XX FM, which offers a multicultural radio broadcast featuring weekly programmes in twenty languages as well as community service and specialty music programmes, Artsound, Valley FM 89.5 based in Tuggeranong, and Radio 1RPH which offers broadcasts for the print handicapped. There are a number of commercial AM and FM radio stations including those belonging to the Capital Radio Network (1053-2CA and 1206-2CC), Canberra FM Radio which incorporates 104.7 and MIX 106.3, and public radio boadcasters SBS & ABC.

Sport[edit | edit source]

In addition to local sporting leagues, Canberra has a number of sporting teams that compete in national and international leagues. The best known teams are the Canberra Raiders and the ACT Brumbies who play rugby league and rugby union respectively, and who have both been champions of their leagues. Both teams play their home games at Canberra Stadium, which is Canberra's largest stadium and was used to hold preliminary soccer matches for the 2000 Summer Olympics and matches for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Canberra also has a successful basketball team, the Canberra Capitals. The Canberra Capitals won the 2006 and 2007 women's basketball Grand Final.

There are also teams that participate in national competitions in netball, field hockey, ice hockey and cricket. Manuka Oval is another large outdoor sporting facility where cricket and Australian Rules football are played. The Melbourne based AFL team the Kangaroos played some home games at Manuka Oval until July 2006, and the Sydney Swans will be playing several home games there in 2007. Following the move of their alternative home ground to Carrara in Queensland, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will play home games at Manuka Oval from 2007. Canberra is also home to the Barassi International Australian Football Youth Tournament. The historic Prime Minister's XI cricket match is played at Manuka Oval annually. Other significant annual sporting events include the Canberra Marathon and the City of Canberra Half Ironman Triathlon. The Canberra Women's Tennis Classic was held in the lead up to the Australian Open until 2006.

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is located in the Canberra suburb of Bruce. The AIS is a specialised educational and training institution providing coaching for elite junior and senior athletes in a number of sports. The AIS has been operating since 1981 and has achieved significant success in producing elite athletes, both local and international. It is also a popular tourist destination.

Canberra has numerous sporting ovals, golf courses, skate parks, tennis courts and swimming pools that are open to the public. A Canberra-wide series of bicycle paths are available to cyclists for recreational and sporting purposes. Canberra Nature Parks have a large range of walking paths, horse and mountain bike trails. Water sports like sailing, rowing and water skiing are popular activities on Canberra's lakes. The Rally of Canberra is an annual motor sport event and a facility for drag racing is currently being planned for construction.

External links[edit | edit source]

Capital cities of Australia
National Canberra | NSW Sydney | NT Darwin | Qld Brisbane | SA Adelaide | TAS Hobart | VIC Melbourne | WA Perth
Cities in Australia

  1. Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 2005. Academic Ranking of World Universities - 2004
  2. ACT Government, "Towards 2020: Renewing Our Schools", [1]
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2005. Schools in the ACT
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