This weekend the Australian capital city, Canberra, celebrates its 100th birthday. Most capital cities around the world have a grand and often tortuous and bloody history but not Canberra. Australia as such didn’t exist until 1901. Until then it was simply a continent of different states. In 1901 an agreement was reached to join together in a federation and the newly formed ‘country’ needed a capital city.
At the time the two biggest and prosperous cities were Sydney and Melbourne. The argument raged between the two with no possibility of a solution so, as a compromise, the US answer was looked to where Washington was purpose built from a chunk of Maryland and called the District of Columbia. Australia chose a piece of land south west of Sydney and called it the Capital Territory. A competition was held to find the best design for the new city and an American couple were chosen. The new plan would be for a geometric pattern of building interspersed with untouched scrub to keep the original feel of the village that would be eaten up by the city. This would prove to be the city’s undoing for many people say the city has no sense of community with each of the sectors being isolated from the others.
Despite a century of existence the city has failed to develop any depth and richness of character, leading it to be called the most boring place in Australia and in some people’s eyes, the dullest in the southern hemisphere. There’s certainly very little to tempt the tourist as a look at any travel site will prove. Yes it has a collection of the country’s museums and art galleries but Melbourne and Sydney have better. The situation is so dire that many Canberrans leave the city at the weekend for a flight or drive up to Sydney to spend the weekend at the beach, seeing the sights and enjoying the nightlife before returning to their jobs in mainly government and administration. As car rental in Australia
is so affordable, renting a car from Sydney Airport
is a popular with Canberrans for the weekend hop.
The Canberra Tourist Board is hoping that the celebrations will bring about a change in fortunes for the city. There are many festivities planned, not just for this weekend but for the centennial year and by the end of it, it’s hoped that Canberra will be as sought after a destination as Sydney or Melbourne. If not, its chances of making a social impact may have to wait until the bicentennial.