Canberra Commonwealth Walkway

Australia / The Pacific

CANBERRA Canberra became the capital city of Australia following the Federation of the Australian colonies in 1901.   The Seat of Government Act of 1908 specified that there should be a capital in the Yass-Canberra area, as opposed to Sydney or Melbourne who competed for it, each fearing domination by the other.  The required land was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1911, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was created and two years later the capital city was founded and named as Canberra, the city later described by Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies as ‘a thing of beauty and a focus of national pride’.   Canberra lies astride the Molonglo River, a quiet, little stream and a tributary of the Murrumbidgee River.  Formerly a small squatter’s settlement, it was referred to as Canberry, a derivation of an Aboriginal term meaning ‘meeting place’.  By 1836 the name had evolved to Canberra.  It lies about 150 miles southwest of Sydney and is the biggest inland city in Australia. Canberra was an entirely planned city, the project being consigned to Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) and his wife Marion Mahoney Griffin (1871-1961), both of them American architects, he a town planner, and work began in 1913.  The design was much influenced by the garden city movement and involved geometric motifs – circles, hexagons and triangles.  Griffin was fired in 1920.  In its early days, Canberra was somewhat unsatisfactory.  Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, later wrote that some people called it the ‘bush capital’ and a wit: ‘six villages in search of a city.’   Menzies was determined to change all that.  He set up the National Capital Development Commission, which greatly developed the city, under the guidance of Sir John Overall (1913-2001), known as the ‘Father’ of Canberra.  He worked between 1957 and 1972, and it was joked that every time a decision was made on behalf of the city he went into immediate action.   Menzies also brought in the British architect, Sir William Holford (1907-75) to advise on further development, particularly of the suburbs.   The Prime Minister was determined to have a lake and this was achieved, now called Lake Burley Griffin, with two fine bridges, boating houses and sailing craft.   Menzies described the lake as ‘three square miles of water shining like a jewel in the middle of the city.’ While the city now has museums, galleries, breweries and much modern architecture, and is much larger than Griffin had envisaged, just minutes away lies the quiet nature of mountains, valleys and everything in between.   Fun Facts 
  • It is one of the only places in Australia where you can go on a Hot Air Balloon ride.
  • Secret tunnels, hidden passages and espionage have been whispered about in Canberra for decades.  Numerous exposés and newspaper articles have attempted to uncover the city’s secrets but none have found solid evidence.
  • Canberra is twinned with: Beijing, China, Nara, Japan and Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Advertising billboards along the roadside are banned in Canberra, with the exception of bus shelters.

10.5 miles / 16.9 kilometres

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