Celebrating Watson and Hackett

I spoke in parliament about Canberra's strong community spirit, and the 50th birthday parties for two of my local communities - Watson and Hackett.
Suburbia is an oft maligned word in Australia, but our suburban communities here in the ACT are something to be proud of. As part of the Canberra centenary, Canberra has been celebrating the unique character, the history of our local communities. As the Parties at the Shops grouping as part of the Canberra centenary has noted, Canberra is probably the only city in the world where you have to have road signs to find the shops, secluded as they are from our leafy avenues.

I want to speak about two celebrations in my electorate. The 50th birthday of the Hackett community on 21 and 22 September was a celebration which brought out Canberra City Band's John Agnew Band, a Reminiscing Corner with early photographs, including from now closed Hackett school.

Hackett Community Association members Greg Haughey, James Walker, Bruce Smith, Terry de Luca, Kay Murphy, Lorraine Mason, Jenny Pierson, Erika Alacs, John Carty and Marian Williams should be commended for their hard work in making the Hackett celebrations such a success. As James Walker noted:

'There are still people here who moved in in 1962, '63, ' 64. We're also organising reminiscing sessions …'

He went on:

'When we were looking to buy when we moved to Canberra, as soon as we looked at Hackett we knew we wanted to be here.'

…  …  …

'The suburb was largely founded for defence people, CSIRO, ANU—so many people were ripped from their previous lives and moved here and had to sort of band together. A tradition has grown up that you know your neighbours and are aware of things happening.'

It is that community spirit in a city in which people really do know their neighbours which is one of the many reasons why I am so proud to represent the ACT.

On most measures of civic life, the ACT tops Australia and indeed postcode 2602, in which Hackett is located, is the most generous postcode in Australia according to donation statistics.

Hackett's Music in the Park organised by John and Christy Murray brings together local bands in the Bragg Street Park again building the community spirit.

Another 2602 postcode is Watson which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, 16 November. I commend the Watson Community Association, including Julie Smith, Richard Larson, John Real, Gillian Helyar, and the MC for the Watson Community Association's Great Debate, Julie Derrett.

Watson is named after the first Labor Prime Minister who regrettably only served for four months. The streets of Watson are named after lawyers, and so the Watson Community Association asked lapsed lawyers Gary Humphries and me to debate the topic: 'That Federation is a Failure, Canberra is a Catastrophe and Lawyers are Laughable'.

I drew the short straw getting the affirmative case and had to do a little nimble footwork so as not to place myself in an invidious position vis a vis my constituents.

I commend too the work of the Watson Woodlands group, which is working to preserve the local community and also Julie Smith and others who have prepared a brochure on Watson and its history, going back to the 1940s with the CSIRO Dickson Experimental Station being established for agricultural research in Watson and referring also importantly to the history of the Ngunnawal people in Watson.

I believe that better knowing your community, its history and your neighbours is fundamental to our sense of self. I think we are better versions of our selves when we are better grounded in our local communities. I commend the communities of Hackett and Watson on teaching all of us more about our local communities and giving neighbours a chance to get to know neighbours. It is a city which is a great privilege to represent.

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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.