Canberra: the capital of OZ??

Australia, Reviews, RTW: 2007-2008 — By on February 4, 2008 4:43 PM

I spent the weekend in Canberra, the capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia. My friend Jenny has been living there for the past four weeks working as a temporary veterinarian. Lauren and I decided a visit to the national capital was a must during our stay in OZ, and it would be more fun to do so with Jenny. Upon arrival to the city, on is shocked as it seems an unlikely choice for a national capital as it is miles from anywhere with not much going on in comparison to Sydney. Located halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, the site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation’s capital in 1908 as a compromise between the two rival largest cities. Canberra is located in The Australian Capital Territory, a federal zone on the model of America’s own District of Columbia. It’s a very strange city, in that it’s not really a city at all, but rather an extremely large park (10,000 acres) with a city hidden in it.

Canberra is a planned city designed by American Walter Burley Griffen. Griffen designed the city around a man made lake, lake Burley Griffen. Captain Cooks Waterjet was built in 1970 to mark the bicentenary of Cook’s landfall in Australia. Cooks discovery of the continent later led to Britain’s commander Arthur Phillips and the fleet of 11 convict ships to settle near Botany Bay leading to the colonization of Australia.

Before Australia’s six colonies were federated, they were extremely separate in that each set clocks to its own time, had different systems of taxing, etc. In 1891 the six colonies (plus New Zealand, which nearly joined, but later dropped out) met in Sydney to discuss forming a proper nation, to be known as the Commonwealth of Australia. It took many years to iron out the details, but in 1901 a new nation was declared. The Commonwealth of Australia consists of six states and two territories. New South Wales (Sydney), South Australia (Adelaide) Victoria(Melbourne), Queensland (Brisbane), Northern Territory (Darwin), Western Australia (Perth), Australia Capital Territory (Canberra), and Tasmania (Hobart).

Canberra is home to many important government buildings, museums, and embassies. I visited the Australian War Memorial my first day in Canberra. The Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war and to help us remember and understand the impact of war on our lives. There was an exhibit on the First and Second World War, an Aircraft exhibit, and Conflicts from 1945 to today.

The Parliament House is home to Australia’s parliament and the meeting place of the nation. Amazingly the Parliament House was not open until 1988. It never ceases to amaze me how young this country truly is. The building is dug into Capital Hill and the roof covered in grass as nothing was suppose to be build on top of capital hill…so they built the building into the hill. There is much symbolism from the marble to timber used and the theme of the land is prominent throughout the building. Located in the Great Hall is the second largest tapestry in the world, which has a “bush” theme. The national emblem is seen throughout the building and I learned that the animals (Kangaroo & Emu) were chose as neither can walk backwards, therefore symbolizing the country moving forward into the future. We toured the meeting place of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd representing the Labor Party. In American terms, the Labor party is Liberal and the Liberal Party is Conservative. I have spent most of my life in the dark in regards to politics and it was not until the past few years that I became interested and developed my own political opinions. However, I arrived in OZ with absolutely no knowledge of the history of the country or the government. It seems that Australian affairs never make the news internationally. Did you know that Australia was the first country to give both men and women the right to vote?

We visited the National Museum of Australia, which is large fortress like building with indoor and outdoor exhibits. The museum celebrates Australian social history and focuses on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, European settlement since 1788, and the interaction of people with the environment.

The Aboriginal people have a story similar to that of the Native Americans. The exhibits tell a story of the first meetings, interactions, and conflicts between the early British Settlers and the Aboriginal people. This conflict has continued throughout history as the two groups co-habitate the land and the Aboriginal people have fought for land and mineral rights.

On Australia Day 1972, the Tent Embassy was established in response to the McMahon Coalition Government’s Aboriginal policy. The policy denied any right to land or compensation leading to further frustration from the Aboriginal people. In response, a tent appeared on the lawns in from of the Old Parliament House. In 1995 the site of the Tent Embassy was added to the Australian Register of the National Estate as the only Aboriginal site in Australia that is recognized nationally as a site representing political struggle for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Lauren and I went to the top of Telstra Tower for 360-degree views of Canberra.

We decided to rent bikes our last day in Canberra and had fun cycling around the lake. We also entertained ourselves by climbing trees and eating gelato. I had to say goodbye to Jenny who has become one of my really good friends and I will miss her until we meet again. I plan to meet up with Jenny in April in Alice Springs and we are going camping in the Outback! The weekend was very educational and I enjoyed learning more about this amazing country. I know this post wasn’t super exciting, but hopefully you learned something too!

To see all of my Canberra Photos CLICK HERE!

My good friend Stacy from San Francisco arrives today in Sydney to begin her four-month working visa! I am so excited to see her! Stacy is going to be living with Lauren and I for a week starting this Friday.

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1 Comment

  1. brian compton says:

    Great history lesson Kel. Keep the posts coming.

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