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The old domed Academy of Science building in Canberra now called the Shine building. | by denisbin
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The old domed Academy of Science building in Canberra now called the Shine building.

A bit of History of Canberra.

Once agreement had been reached between the states for a new federal government and Queen Victoria had assented to the act a search began for a site for the new capital of the nation. The long time rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne was resolved by a clause in the new constitution which stated the capital had to be in NSW but at least 100 miles (160 kms) from Sydney and that the new Federal parliament would decide the final location. Politicians then suggested potential sites taking into account closeness to Sydney, rail access, and a good water supply as Australia had suffered a severe drought in 1902-1904. The new territory for the national capital would be ceded by the NSW parliament to the new government, so NSW always was going to have the final say! Twenty three sites were considered and inspected by politicians travelling by train, camping and then moving around on horseback! The sites included Albury, Armidale, Orange, Yass, Lake George, etc. The new territory was to be at least 100 square miles in area. The politicians decided on Dalgety a tiny town near Lake Jindabyne and Bombala near the NSW Victorian border in 1903. NSW did not approve of this choice as it was too far from Sydney and closer to Melbourne and there was no railway to the site so in 1908 a final decision was made on the Canberra-Yass district. The new territory was going to be 912 square miles in area. In 1911 the NSW parliament ceded this area to the new federal government and an international competition was then held for a design of the new capital city. 137 entries were received and the winner was Walter Burley Griffin from Chicago who planned for a city of 75,000 people in the tradition of a “garden city”. His plan involved the damming of Molonglo Creek to form a large lake, and a series of octagonal focal points were to be aligned with natural features (the surrounding mountains) and be linked by large avenues. The main axis of his plan (and his wife Marion worked on it too) was to be from Capital Hill (the site of our present parliament) across to the War Memorial at the foot of Mt Ainslie. On the 12th March 1913 Canberra was formally named and construction was to begin on the new city. Walter Burley Griffin arrived a few months later to supervise the work. Unfortunately World War I broke out in 1914 and worked stalled as the government had insufficient funds. Conflicts occurred and Walter Burley Griffin left Canberra in 1921 and new architects were brought in to complete the city. A major milestone was achieved when the temporary Parliament House was opened in 1927 and the Federal government moved from its temporary accommodation in Melbourne to the city of Canberra. Worked progressed slowly in the 1930s, because of the Depression, and in the 1940s because of World War Two, yet some progress was made in these decades. Prime Minister Robert Menzies made sure Canberra forged ahead in the 1950s and the city has continued to grow ever since. It now has a population of 370,000 people and is the eight largest city of Australia.

 

The Canberra district has been settled by pastoralists in 1824 at Bungendore and Braidwood. Like these two towns Canberra too had been first discovered by ex-convict Joseph Wild in 1820. The earliest station was Duntroon set up by a good Scot called Campbell and another station nearby called Yarralumla was also set up by a Scot, named Murray. Another early settler Joshua Moore called his property Canberry, but the local Aborigines called the district Canberra so he changed his property’s name to Canberra. Moore’s original cottage was on land now occupied by the Australian National University. Much of his grazing land is now under Lake Burley Griffin! A tiny village or local focus emerged here in 1845 when St. John’s Anglican Church was erected on land donated by the Campbell family of Duntroon station. St. John’s remains as Canberra’s oldest public structure and Duntroon (1833) as its oldest building. These original settlers and other landowners were not happy about the creation of the Australian Capital Territory as their land was resumed and offered back on 99 year leases. All land in the ACT is still owned by the government and there is no freehold land only leased titles.

 

Some Canberra Miscellanea.

•The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on Australia Day 1972. After some protests it was demolished several times and but soon re-established. In 1995 the Embassy was added to the Register of the National Estate. Prime Minister Gillard lost a shoe near the Embassy on Australia Day 2012.

•The Australian-American Memorial was erected from public donations after the ending of World War Two. It commemorates the support the USA gave Australia during that war. It is 79 metres high and was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1954.

•Anzac Parade was officially opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies on Anzac Day 1965 to commemorate the Gallipoli Landing.

•ASIO , Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was founded in 1949 by Prime Minister Ben Chifley. The ASIO Headquarters were opened in 1897.

•Yarralumla, Government House. The house was built in 1891 for a pastoralist. It has been the home of the Governor-General since 1927. The Queen stays here. Prime Ministers and cabinets are sworn in here. The first Australian born Governor-General was Sir Isaac Isaacs in 1931 despite strong opposition to his appointment from King George V. Prime Minister Scullin insisted. Isaacs Isaacs was the first Jewish GG.

•The Lodge, at 5 Adelaide Avenue was built in 1926 as a residence of the Speaker of the House but it became the residence of the Prime Minister. Stanley Bruce, 1923-29, was the first Prime Minister to live in the Lodge from 1927. It is a 40 roomed Georgian style mansion on 4.4 acres of gardens. Plans for a luxurious Prime Minister’s residence were never completed so the Lodge remained the Canberra residence of the PM. Prime Minister John Curtin died in the Lodge in 1945.

•Air Disaster Memorial near Canberra Airport. In August 1940 a plane crashed at Canberra Airport killing three Cabinet members. Prime Minister Robert Menzies recalled 31 year old Harold Holt from the Army to serve as a Minister. Holt later became Prime Minister 1966-67 until he disappeared in the ocean 17/12/67.

•Ridges Lakeside Hotel. It opened in 1972 as the leading Canberra Hotel. Here Pakistani money broker Khemlani booked in with his luggage (with lots of money in it) whilst he stayed elsewhere! This affair in part led to the downfall of the Whitlam government. Bob and Hazel Hawke stayed here in 1983 when he was elected Prime Minster. Hawke ran the government from Ridges for about one week!

 

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Taken on December 1, 2012