Centenary of Canberra


Centenary of Canberra, 23 May 2011

When Canberra turns on its charm and offers that perfect day—the sun shines, the water glistens and the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot—it is easy to see how this city charmed the federal parliamentarians who visited in 1906 and 1907 on their tour of potential sites for the new nation's capital. Originally Canberra was not the preferred location of either the media or the politicians. But for the perfect Canberra day on 13 August 1906 and then again on 23 August 1907, the parochial interests of a Premier and the change of heart invoked by a Victorian senator, our nation's capital could have been somewhere entirely different.

On 23 May 1912, entry No. 29 by Walter Burley Griffin, a landscape architect from Chicago, Illinois, was declared the winner of the competition to design Australia's new federal capital. Walter Burley Griffin heard about the Australian government's competition to design the national capital while on honeymoon with his wife, Marion, in 1911. Although it was Walter's name that headed the entry, theirs was very much a collaborative effort. Without Marion's elegant drawings, it is unlikely that Walter's design would have grabbed the judges and lifted it above the 136 other entries in the competition. The winning design incorporated leading international ideas of the day in the science of town planning, such as the 'city beautiful' and 'garden city' movements. Yet, for the city to flourish, Griffin believed it also needed a community with 'great democratic civic ideals'. He wanted Australia's capital to be a place where citizens enjoyed a high quality of life based on 'egalitarian legislation, genuine public spirit and organic, scientific cities'. The 13th March 2013 marks the Centenary of Canberra. The Australian government recognises the national importance of the Centenary of Canberra as the national capital. We have been working closely with the ACT government to develop a program of events in the lead-up to and in the centenary year. The Australian and ACT governments have established an intergovernmental working group under an agreement signed in December 2008.

Along with the support of the Centenary of Canberra creative director, Robyn Archer, the working group have identified centenary national program activities, activities that have national reach and engage communities right around Australia, not just residents of the ACT. For example, the draft program includes the construction of the Canberra Centenary Walking and Cycling Trail. The trail will guide walkers and cyclists through urban and nearby rural areas, incorporating a variety of iconic and lesser known locations that tell the story of Canberra. The ideal for the trail was raised from community submissions received as part of the Canberra 100 call for centenary projects. Taking in existing fire and walking trails, it will merge with new ones. It will start here at Parliament House and loop around the ACT through locations including Anzac Parade, the Australian War Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin, Mount Ainslie, Mount Taylor, Red Hill, the National Arboretum, Stromlo Forest Park and Mulligans Flat Sanctuary. A result of the partnership between the Australian government and the ACT community, the Centenary Trail will be a gift to Canberra and visitors to our city for years to come.

The Australian government's commitment to the Centenary of Canberra is evidenced by the recent announcement in its 2011-12 budget of $6 million over three years as a contribution to the centenary national program. The Australian and ACT governments are keen to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure the success of this activity and the entire national program. The final size and shape of the program is currently being negotiated with the ACT.

Our national capital is a source of pride for all Australians. The Centenary of Canberra is a unique opportunity to celebrate this historic moment and for the Australian government to continue its conversation with the Australian people about the kind of nation we want over the next 100 years. As the federal member for Fraser and father of two young boys who proudly call Canberra home, I welcome the positive attention being paid to this city by the member for Menzies. I would also encourage the opposition to support the initiatives being put in place by the Australian government to celebrate the Centenary of Canberra, such as the Centenary Trail and new investments in the National Arboretum. I know they will join other national institutions in enriching the lives of the city and the nation.

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8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au