Centenary of Canberra

I spoke in parliament last night about the Centenary of Canberra in 2013.
Centenary of Canberra
20 March 2012

One hundred years ago Walter Burley Griffin said that he wanted to design a city for a nation of 'bold democrats'. On 12 March 2013 Canberra will celebrate its centenary, a celebration that all Australians can be proud of. Tonight I want to speak about two exciting aspects of Canberra's centenary. The first is the opportunity to speak in greater depth about what our history means and where it has been going. It is my pleasure this evening to engage in one aspect of this—a forum hosted by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects entitled 'Sex in the city' in which noted architecture writer Elizabeth Farrelly presented her views on gender and urban development. I would like to thank Paul Costigan, Diane Firth, my fellow commentator, Gary Rake, and many others for an important discussion about where a great Australian city is to go. Better understanding your own city is the first step towards improving it.

The second aspect that Canberra's centenary will highlight is the importance of understanding our local communities. When I wrote a book on social capital - the community ties that bind us together - it turned out that Canberra was the place in Australia with the strongest social ties, and I think part of this harks back to our strong urban form. But there are still worrying trends. For example, from 2007 to 2010 the number of informal votes in my electorate rose from 2,679 to 5,171. That is more than 5,000 people whose votes did not affect the outcome of the election. It is important to re-engage Australians with our polity, and part of that will be through the Portrait of a Nation process. I am pleased to be the patron of Portrait of a Nation, which will involve Canberrans coming to better understand their suburbs.

Canberra suburb and street naming is unique to the nation's capital. Most of the suburbs and streets are named after famous, sometimes forgotten, Australians. Portrait of a Nation will be a chance for Canberrans to delve deeply into the history of their suburb, whether that be holding a street party on the birthday of the person after whom their suburb is named or simply getting friends and family together for a street party. I have found that street parties are enormously valuable in improving the social bonds that tie us together. My wife, Gweneth, and I have held our street's party in three of the last six years. We have found it is a great way of getting to know our neighbours better and getting to know those who have moved into the street over the previous year.

The Centenary of Canberra also involves many other important events. For the centenary the motto of the ever-energetic Robyn Archer is 'seed now, blossom in 2013, flower for another hundred years'. One of the events will be You Are Here, a 10-day curated festival showcasing the energy, innovation and talent from Canberra's thriving creative and independent scene. Dollars for Dili recognises the sister city relationship between Canberra and Dili and will focus on building the capacity and education of young people. It is based on the principle that it is better to give than to receive.

There was an exhibition entitled 'Devotion, Daring and a Sense of Destiny', launched by Mr David Headon, which showcased the key role played by surveyors in the early history of Canberra.

There are many other projects that are being discussed as part of Canberra's centenary. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have ideas as to how the quarter-centenary of this very building could be incorporated as part of the centenary of Canberra. It will be an exciting year for Canberrans and an exciting year for all Australians. I urge all Australians to be part of this tremendously important celebration of our nation's capital.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.