Sunday, June 30, 2019

Canberra


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I mentioned yesterday that I am in Canberra for a few days to spend some time with father in law Noel.  Aged 92, he nonetheless has the widest jazz knowledge (and record collection) of anyone I know, was Secretary to the Executive Council and therefore the liaison between Gough Whitlam and John Kerr, and has lived in Canberra since 1949 after moving there from New Guinea.

In his honour, today’s Bytes looks at some items of interest about Canberra.

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Canberra is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the federation of the colonies of Australia as the seat of government for the new nation, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory; 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne.


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The arms of Australia's capital were granted on November 7, 1928.

The castle in the arms has three towers, which signify dignity, importance and grandeur of the city. The sword of justice represents the national authority. The mace symbolises the law making power. The crown shows the role of the sovereign in Australian government. The rose is the rose of York, which commemorates the contribution of the Duke of York in establishing Canberra as the seat of government.

The portcullis or gate above the arms are the link to the arms of Westminster in England, seat of the British parliament. Behind the porticullis is a gum tree, which represents growth and progress of the city.

The swans symbolise the Aboriginal and European people.

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When the provisional national parliament opened in 1927, it was lumped in the middle of a barren-looking paddock.

Opening of Parliament House, May 1927

Sheep grazing near Old Parliament House, Canberra, 1940

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Always intended as a temporary home for federal Parliament, Provisional (Old) Parliament House remained in operation for 61 years. When it opened on 9 May 1927, there were 101 members of parliament—by the time the building closed, this number had more than doubled to 224.

Construction of Old Parliament House, Canberra, 1923

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While many of Canberra’s streets and suburbs are named after politicians, Callister St in Theodore pays tribute to a true Australian legend: Dr Cyril Callister, the inventor of Vegemite.

Dr Cyril Callister, 1893-1949

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137 entries were received from 15 different countries to design Australia’s new capital city in 1912.   The competition was boycotted by the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Institution of Civil Engineers and their affiliated bodies throughout the British Empire because the Minister for Home Affairs King O'Malley insisted that the final decision was for him to make rather than an expert in city planning.

King O’Malley, 1858-1953

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In the language of the Ngunnawal people, Canberra supposedly means either “meeting place” or “women’s breasts.” The former is generally thought correct, although a look at Mt Ainslie and Black Mountain from the right angle could suggest otherwise.

Mount Ainslie behind Lak Burley Griffin

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While American Walter Burley Griffin took all the credit for designing the city, his wife Marion did all the drawings presented to the assessors.

Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin

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Lake Burley Griffin is an artificial lake in the centre of the city and is the centrepiece of the capital in accordance with Griffin's original designs.. Griffin designed the proposed lake with many geometric motifs, so that the axes of his design lined up with natural geographical landmarks in the area. However, government authorities changed his original plans and no substantial work was completed before he left Australia in 1920. Griffin's proposal was further delayed by the Great Depression and World War II, and it was not until the 1950s that planning resumed. After political disputes and consideration of other proposed variations, excavation work began in 1960 with the energetic backing of Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Because of a drought, the lake's target water level was not reached until April 1964. The lake was formally inaugurated on 17 October 1964.

The view along Central Basin towards the Carillon and Defence Headquarters

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Both before and after Federation, there was much public bickering about what and where a federal territory and Seat of Government should be. The Constitution said that the Parliament must choose a site at least one hundred miles (160km) from Sydney and that the Parliament would sit in Melbourne until a new parliament house was built in the new capital.  What is now Canberra was finally selected as a suitable site.


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A competition was held in 1913 to name the new locality, the sentimental favourite being Canberra, which had been in common use in the district for more than three-quarters of a century. Nonetheless some of the nominated names, many tongue in cheek, included Cookaburra, Wheatwoolgold, Kangaremu, Sydmelperadbrisho, Meladneyperbane, Swindleville, Gonebroke and Caucus City.


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A group of people are pushing for a Hollywood style sign on the disused quarry at Eagle Hawk Hill facing the Fedral Highway (2 kilometeres on the NSW side of the ACT border). The Canberra Times’ Tim the Yowie Man has described the capital’s current ‘sense of arrival’ by road as having “as much ‘wow factor’ as taking a packet of milk arrowroot biscuits to a dessert party.” I like the sign idea.



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On 12 March 1913, London-born Governor-General Lord Denman, Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and home affairs minister King O’Malley laid the city’s three foundation stones on Capital Hill. There had been considerable disagreement as to how the name Canberra should be pronounced. It was agreed that however Lady Denman, wife of the GG and who was to christen the city, pronounced it would be the pronunciation henceforth. At noon on that date she declared: 
‘I name the capital of Australia, Canberra, with the accent on the Can’.



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It is ironic that King O’Malley, a strict teetotaller who had alcohol banned from the Australian Capital Territory until 1928, now gives his name to the most famous Irish pub in Canberra, King O’Malley’s. As it happens, O’Malley was also not Irish. 




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