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File:Australia states canberra.PNG
Coordinates 35°18′S 149°08′E / 35.300°S 149.133°E / -35.300; 149.133
State or territory Australian Capital Territory
Area 805.6 km²
Time zone
 Summer (DST)
+10 UTC
+11 UTC

401.0 persons/km²
Governing body
Chief Minister

Jon Stanhope

Canberra is the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia and, with a population of just over 320,000, its largest inland city. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory, about 150 km inland, 300 km southwest of Sydney, and 650 km northeast of Melbourne. Canberra is unique among Australia's cities as a purpose-built, planned city. Its design was heavily influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation; for this reason, Canberra is known as the "bush captial". As Australia's seat of government, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments; it is also the location of numerous social and cultural institutions of national significance. Most Australians pronounce the city's name in two syllables, (in IPA) as either /'kæn.bɹə/ or /'kæm.bɹə/. A minority pronounce it /'kæn.bə.ɹə/ and a few use /kæn.'be.ɹə/, although the last is generally considered incorrect.


Before European settlement, the area in which Canberra would eventually be constructed was inhabited by the Ngunnawal and Walgalu tribes. The Ngarigo lived south-east of the Canberra area, the Gundungurra to the north, the Yuin on the coast and the Wiradjuri to the west. Archeological evidence from the region suggest human habiation of the area for at least 21,000 years. The word Canberra is said to be derived from the word 'Canberry', or 'meeting place' in the Ngunnawal language. The name was apparently used either in relation to the Molonglo River which, along with the Murrumbidgee River, flows through Canberra, or as reference to corroborees held during the seasonal migration of the Ngunawal people to feast on the Bogong Moths that pass through the region each spring.

European exploration and settlement started in the Canberra area as early as the 1820s. There were four expeditions between 1820 and 1824. White settlement of the area probably dates from 1824, when a homestead or station was built on what is now the Acton peninsula by stockmen employed by Joshua John Moore. He formally purchased the site in 1826, and named the property Canberry. The European population in the Canberra area continued to grow slowly throughout the 19th century. As the European presence increased, the indigenous population dwindled, mainly from disease such as smallpox and measles. By the 1870s, the indigenous population was largely absorbed into European culture through half-caste marriages.

Opening of Parliament House in May 1927.

The district's change from a New South Wales (NSW) rural area to the national capital started during debates over Federation in the late 19th century. Following a long dispute over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the national capital, a compromise was reached: Melbourne would be the capital on a temporary basis while a new capital was built somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne. Canberra was chosen as the site in 1908, as a result of survey work done by the government surveyor Charles Scrivener. The NSW government ceded the Federal Capital Territory (as it was then known) to the federal government on 1 January 1910, which held an international competition in the following year for the design of the city. The design of Walter Burley Griffin was chosen and in 1913 Griffin was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction amd construction began. On 12 March 1913, the city was officially given its name by Lady Denman, the wife of the then Governor-General Lord Denman at a ceremony at Kurrajong Hill, which has since become Capital Hill and the site of the present Parliament House. Canberra Day is a public holiday observed in the ACT during March to celebrate the founding of Canberra.

Two of Canberra's best-known landmarks, Parliament House and Old Parliament House (foreground). Commonwealth Place runs alongside the lake and includes the International Flag Display.

The federal government moved to Canberra on 9 May 1927, with the opening of the Provisional Parliament House. The Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, had officially taken up residence in The Lodge a few days earlier. On January 27, 1972 the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the grounds of Parliament House where it exists to this day. In spite of its name, it is not a diplomatic mission, but rather exists to draw attention to indigenous rights and land issues. On May 9, 1988, a larger and permanent Parliament House was opened on Capital Hill as part of Australia's bicentenary celebrations, and the Federal Parliament moved there from the Provisional Parliament House, now known as Old Parliament House.

In December 1988, the ACT was granted full self-government through an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament that made the ACT a body politic under the crown. Following the first elections in February 1989, a 17-member Legislative Assembly sat for the first time at its offices in London Circuit, Civic, on May 11, 1989. The ACT's first government was led by the Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, who led the ACT Labor Party and made history as the first female head of government at Australian state or territory level.

On January 18, 2003, parts of Canberra were engulfed by a bushfire that destroyed 491 homes, and killed four people. Some 200 homes were burnt down in the suburb of Duffy alone. The major research telescopes and the workshop at the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory were destroyed in the fire.


The location of Canberra within the ACT and the Canberra's seven districts are shown in yellow, they are North Canberra, South Canberra, Woden, Belconnen, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong, and Gungahlin.

Canberra is located near the Brindabella Ranges, approximately 150 km inland from Australia's east coast. It is located at altitudes that range from 550m to 700m above sea level. The highest point is Mt Ainslie which is one of several large hills that also include Mt Mugga Mugga, Mt Taylor and Black Mountain. The surrounding bushland and the original bushland that Canberra was built in is a mix of eucalyptus savannah, scrubland, swamp and dry eucalyptus forests.

The Molonglo River flows through Canberra and has been dammed to form the body of water in the centre of the city called Lake Burley Griffin. The Molonglo then flows into the Murrumbidgee northwest of Canberra, which in turn flows along Canberra's southwestern outskirts. The Queanbeyan River joins the Molonglo River at Oaks Estate just within the ACT's borders. A number of creeks flow into the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee, such as Jerrabomberra and Yarralumla Creeks. Two of these creeks, Ginninderra and Tuggeranong Creeks, have likewise been dammed to form Lake Ginninderra and Lake Tuggeranong. The area had a history of sometimes lethal floods until recent times, and prior to its formation, Lake Burley Griffin area was a flood plain. A wetlands, known as the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, lies directly east of South Canberra, and is a nature reserve area.

Due to its elevation and inland location Canberra has four distinct seasons, unlike many other Australian cities whose climates are moderated by the sea. Canberra is notorious for both hot summers and cold winters with heavy fog and frequent frosts. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology January is Canberra's hottest month with a mean daily maximum temperature of 27.7 °C, the highest highest recorded maximum temperature was 42.2 °C on February 1, 1968.Template:Mn In wintertime, the days can get very cool, and snow falls every few years; the mean daily maximum for July, the coldest month, is 11.2 °C and the mean daily minimum is −0.2 °C. Thunderstorms occur between October and March, and annual rainfall is 629 mm which is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.

View of Canberra from the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. Civic, the city centre is located on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, (left). Parliament House and the Parliamentary Triangle are located on the southern shore.


ACT Legislative Assembly
& Ethos statue (Tom Bass, 1961)

Outside the city of Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory has no settlements larger than a village. The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly performs the roles of both a city council and territory government. The Assembly consists of 17 members, elected from three districts using proportional representation. The three districts are Molongolo, Gininderra and Brindabella, which elect seven, five and five members, respectively. The Chief Minister is elected by the members of the Assembly and selects four MLAs to serve as Ministers to form an Executive, or cabinet. At the 2004 election. the Australian Labor Party, headed by incumbent Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, won nine of the 17 seats and formed the first ACT majority government. The Assembly building is located at Civic Square.

The Commonwealth Government retains some influence over the ACT government; the Commonwealth can overule the laws of the territories, although this rarely happens. The Commonwealth's National Capital Authority is responsible for many aspects of the planning of Canberra's urban development and growth; for example, its approval is required for land releases for development.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) conduct all of the police services that are normally provided by a state police force. The AFP operate under a unique contractual agreement with the Australian Capital Territory Government to provide Policing and Crime Prevention services to the ACT community. People arrested are tried either in the ACT Magistrate's Court or, depending on the severity of the allegation, the ACT Supreme Court. Prisioners can be held in remand in the ACT, but persons sentenced to imprisonment are sent to a NSW jail as there are no prisons in Canberra. Courts such as a Small Claims Tribunal and a Family Court exist for civil law actions and other non-criminal legal matters.


Many Canberrans are employed by Government departments such as the Australian Treasury.

As of July 2005, there are 182,000 employed persons in Canberra with an unemployment rate of 3.3% which is well under the national unemployment rate of 5.0% over the same period.Template:Mn Labour shortages have been reported in some sectors. The city's main industry is government administration and defence, which accounted for 26.1% of Gross State Product in 2003-04.Template:Mn The Parliament and government departments with their headquarters in Canberra, like the Department of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Treasury, as well as other Commonwealth bodies like the High Court of Australia are major employers. A number of military establishments of the Australian Defence Force exist in or near Canberra, most notably RAAF Fairbairn (now effectively closed as a base for the Royal Australian Air Force, except for housing the VIP Flight) and HMAS Harman (becoming a tri-service multiuser depot).

Tourism is a significant contributor to the economy of Canberra, with a large number of Australian and international visitors visiting the city each year. The most popular times are spring and autumn, with the annual Floriade spring flower display held each year in September being the biggest. Other poupular cultural events include the National Folk Festival, the Royal Canberra Show and the Summernats car festival. Property and business services, construction, health and community services and education are also significant contributors to the economy of Canberra. Unlike most other parts of Australia, there is no legal barrier to the production and mail-order sale of explicit X-rated pornographic material in Canberra, and this has led to a small but thriving export industry.


As of the June 30, 2003 the population of Canberra was 323,004 people, which is the majority of the population of the Australian Capital Territory. From the 2001 census 1.2% of the population of Canberra identified as being of Indigenous origin and 21.6% were born overseas. Template:Mn The largest proportion of people born overseas have come from English-speaking countries led by England then New Zealand. Significant number of immigrants have also come from Germany, Scotland, Italy and Vietnam. Recent immigrants have come from countries in Asia and South Asia.Template:Mn Most people in Canberra speak English and many have a second language including Chinese, Italian and Croatian.

The suburb of Dickson

The population of Canberra is relatively young, highly mobile, and well educated. The average age of a Canberran is 32 years and only 8.3% of the population is aged over 65 years.Template:Mn In the period between 1996 and 2001 61.9% of the population turned over, which is the second highest rate of any Australian capital city.Template:Mn At May 2004, 30% of people in the ACT aged 15-64 had a level of educational attainment equal to a Bachelor Degree or above which is much higher that the national average of 19%. Template:Mn Beacuse of the types of employment avaiblable in Canberra, the demographic make-up of the people it attracts and the low level of unemployment Canberra has the highest mean weekly disposable income of any Australian capital city.Template:Mn


Most people in Canberra travel to and from work by car. There is a publicly run bus service that provides public transport in Canberra called ACTION, short for Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network. The ACTION bus service provides comprehensive services throught the city. A private bus service also operates between Queanbeyan and Canberra. In 2001 4.6% of the population used the bus system and 5.5% walked or cycled to work.Template:Mn There is no local railway system.

An interstate CountryLink railway service connects Canberra to Melbourne. The Canberra station is in the inner south suburb of Kingston. There is also a CountryLink rail service between Sydney and Yass, a town located one hour's drive from Canberra. Plans to have a very fast train operate between Canberra and Sydney and on to Melbourne have been contemplated, but not implemented.

Canberra is approximately three hours by road from Sydney on the Federal Highway which connects with the Hume Highway (National Highway 23) near Goulburn and seven hours by road from Melbourne on the Barton Highway (National Highway 25) which joins the Hume Highway at Yass. It is a two hour drive on the Monaro Highway (National Highway 23) to the snow ski fields of the Snowy Mountains and the Kosciuszko National Park. Batemans Bay, a popular holiday spot on the coast of New South Wales, is reached via the Kings Highway.

Canberra International Airport provides direct domestic services to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth with connections to other domestic destinations. There are also direct daily flights to Albury, New South Wales and Newcastle, New South Wales. Long-term plans to introduce regular scheduled international flights have been considered, but to date the only international flights have been charter flights. The civilian airport shares the runways with RAAF Base Fairbairn which regularly receives international dignatries such as heads of state and handles VIP flights such as those carrying Federal Ministers. The airport is capable of handling Boeing 747 aircraft.


File:Inner Canberra-test-MJC.png
Inner Canberra demonstrates some aspects of the Griffin plan, in particular the Parliamentary Triangle.

Canberra is a planned city that was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin. The centre of Canberra is laid out on two major perpendicular axes, a water axis that stretches along Lake Burley Griffin, and a ceremonial land axis stretching from Parliament House on Capital Hill northeastward to the Australian War Memorial at the foot of Mt Ainslie. The area known as the Parliamentary Triangle is formed by three of Burley Griffin's axes, stretching from Capital Hill along Commonwealth Avenue to the Civic Centre around City Hill, along Constitution Avenue to the Defence precinct on Russell Hill, and along Kings Avenue back to Capital Hill.

The urban areas of Canberra are divided into seven districts. The order of development, they are:

  • North Canberra: Mostly developed in 1920s and 1930s, complete by the 1960s (15 suburbs)
  • South Canberra: Developed 1920s - 1960s (13 suburbs)
  • Woden: Settled in 1963 (13 suburbs)
  • Belconnen: Residents first moved into homes in 1967 (25 suburbs)
  • Weston Creek: Settled in 1969 (8 suburbs)
  • Tuggeranong: Developed in 1974 (19 suburbs)
  • Gungahlin: Developed early 1990s (5 suburbs)

Oaks Estate is a small suburb located near the ACT/NSW border which is not part of any of the districts and has close ties with the neighbouring NSW town of Queanbeyan. The North and South Canberra districts are based on Walter Burley Griffin's designs. The others all have a land contour design and a central shopping area known as a Town Centre. The districts are generally separated from each other by natural parklands, in total there are 30 Canberra Nature Parks that surround the suburbs. Although the urban development of Canberra after World War II did not follow Burley Griffin's plan, there are still strict urban planning restrictions that govern the development of Canberra.

View from Tuggeranong Hill, looking down into Tuggeranong Valley.

The suburbs within the districts are generally named after famous Australians, early setttler or Aboriginal words. Street names within each suburb generally follow a particular theme. For example, the streets of Duffy are named after Australian dams and weirs, Page streets are named after biologists and naturalists, and the streets of Gowrie are named after Australian Victoria Cross recipients. Most of foreign embassies and high commissions in Australia are located in the suburbs of Yarralumla, Deakin and O'Malley. There are three suburbs that are considered to be industrial districts: Fyshwick, Mitchell and Hume. Streets in these areas also follow a theme - for instance, the streets of Fyshwick are named after Australian industrial towns.

Sites of interest

The National Museum of Australia established in 2001 records Australia's social history and one of Canberra's more architecturally daring buildings.

Many of the Australian government buildings in Canberra are open to the public, including Parliment House, the High Court and the Royal Australian Mint. Canberra is home to many national monuments and institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery currently housed at Old Parliment House, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. Lake Burley Griffin is the site of the Captain Cook Memorial and the National Carillon. Of general interst are the Telstra Tower, Australian National Botanic Gardens on Black Mountain, the National Zoo and Aquarium and Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre.

The Canberra Museum and Gallery is a repository of local history and art. There are several historic homes open to the public in Canberra: Lanyon Homestead and Tuggeranong Homestead in the Tuggeranong valley, Mugga - Mugga in Symonston and Blundells' Cottage in Parkes which display the lifestyle of the early European settlers; Calthorpes' House in Red Hill which is a well preserved example of a 1920s house from the early days of the city of Canberra. Duntroon House, one of the district's earliest homesteads which is now the officers' mess at Royal Military College in the suburb of Campbell, has occasional open days.


As Australia's political centre, Canberra is naturally the home of much of Australia's political reportage and thus all the major media organizations, including the commercial television networks, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the metropolitan newspapers maintain bureaus there. Many are represented in the "press gallery", the group of media people that follows the national parliament. The National Press Club is on National Circuit, in the South Canberra suburb of Barton, and it regularly broadcasts its weekly lunches, in which a guest, usually a politician, gives a half-hour speech and then goes through a half-hour question session afterwards.

Canberra has its own daily newspaper, the Canberra Times which was established in 1926. There are also a number of weekly suburban and special interest publications. Canberra has five free-to-air television stations, two government funded (ABC and SBS) and three commercial (Prime, WIN and Southern Cross Ten). Subscription television services are provided by Foxtel which provides a satelite service, and TransACT a local telecommunications company which provides a cable service. TransACT also provides telephone and broadband internet services through a fibre-optic cable network covering most suburbs.

There are a number of community radio stations broadcasting in Canberra, including Radio 2XX FM which is a multicultural radio broadcast, featuring weekly programmes in twenty languages, in addition to community service and specialty music programmes. There are a number of other commercial AM and FM radio stations including Austereo Radio Network and ABC networks and Radio 1RPH which broadasts for the print hadicapped.

Educational institutions

The Australian National University, based in Acton and the University of Canberra, based near Belconnen. There are also two religious university campuses in Canberra: Signadou in the North Canberra suburb of Watson is a campus of the Australian Catholic University; St Mark's Theological College adjacent to the Parliament House is a campus of Charles Sturt University. The Australian Defence Force Academy (or ADFA) and the Royal Military College, Duntroon (or RMC) are near the suburb of Campbell, in Canberra's inner northeast. ADFA teaches military undergraduates and postgraduates and is officially a campus of the University of New South Wales; Duntroon provides Australian Army Officer training. Tertiary and vocational education is also available through the multicampus Canberra Institute of Technology.

There are a numerous public and non-governmental schools in Canberra. Canberra suburbs are planned to include a primary school in most suburbs and schools are usually located near areas for play and sports. Children begin formal schooling at primary school in the February when they are five years old or if they are due to turn five by April 30 in that year. Primary school consists of seven grades: kindergarten and years 1 to 6. From years 7 to 10 children attend high school, generally a different institution to their primary education. Children in years 11 to 12 attend a college normally studying five to six courses over two years. Certificates are awarded on the basis of continuous assessment of students' progress at the end of years 10 and 12 by the ACT Department of Education and Training.

Sports and recreation

Club Sport League
Canberra Raiders Rugby league National Rugby League
ACT Brumbies Rugby union Super 14
Canberra Darters Netball Commonwealth Bank Trophy
Canberra Capitals/AIS Basketball Women's National Basketball League
Canberra Lakers/Canberra Strikers Hockey Australian Hockey League
Canberra Knights Ice hockey Australian Ice Hockey League

In addition to local sporting leagues, Canberra has a number of sporting teams that compete in national leagues. The best known teams are the Canberra Raiders and the ACT Brumbies who play rugby league and rugby union respectively and who have both been champions of their leagues. Both teams play their home games at Canberra Stadium, which is Canberra's largest stadium and was used to hold preliminary soccer matches for the 2000 Summer Olympics and matches for the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup. Manuka Oval is another large outdoor sporting facility where cricket and Australian Rules football are played. The Melbourne based AFL team the Kangaroos plays some home games at Manuka Oval and the historic "Prime Minister's XI" cricket match is played there annually. Other significant annual sporting events include the Canberra Marathon, the City of Canberra Half Ironman Triathlon and the Canberra Women's Tennis Classic held in the lead up to the Australian Open.

A rugby league match at Canberra Stadium, the Canberra Raiders (green) v Canterbury Bulldogs (white).

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is located in the Canberra suburb of Bruce, the AIS is a specialised educational and training institution providing coaching for elite junior and senior athletes in a number of sports. The AIS has been operating since 1981 and has achieved significant success in producing elite althletes. The AIS is also a popular tourist destination.

Canberra has numerous sporting ovals, golf courses, skate parks, tennis courts and swimming pools that are open to the public. A Canberra-wide series of bicycle paths are available to cyclists for recreational and sporting purposes. Canberra Nature Parks have a large range of walking paths, horse and mountain bike trails. Water sports like sailing, rowing and water skiing are popular activites on Canberra's lakes. The Rally of Canberra is an annual motorsport event.

See also


Template:MnbAustralian Bureau of Meterology. 2005. Climate of Canberra Area
Template:MnbACT Department of Treasury. 2004. Economics Branch Publication, Labour Force — July 2005
Template:MnbACT Department of Treasury. 2004. Economics Branch Publication, Gross State Product 2003–04
Template:MnbAustralian Bureau of Statistics. 2002. Canberra - Basic Community Profile and Snapshot - 2001 Census
Template:MnbAustralian Capital Territory Government. 2003. A social and demographic profile of multicultural Canberra, Chapter 2 Multicultural Population
Template:MnbAustralian Bureau of Statistics. 2003. Australian Demographic Statistics, Population Mobility
Template:MnbAustralian Bureau of Statistics. 2005. Education in the ACT
Template:MnbAustralian Bureau of Statistics. 2000. Income and Expenditure - Income Distribution: Interstate income inequality

External links