Canberra, Capital of Australia

Today, Ron took me to Canberra, about an hour south of Goulburn, and showed me many of the important sights. Canberra is a city of about 410,000 people, located inland in a special non-state area called the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), similar to the way the District of Columbia where the US capital, Washington, is not a state. The site of Canberra was selected in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. In 1911 there was an international competition for a design for the capital. William Burley Griffin, an American architect and landscape architect, with the substantial, and at the time, uncredited assistance of his wife Marion Mahoney Griffin, won the competition with a landscape design based on the garden city movement. The Griffins moved to Australia in 1912 where he was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. Construction began in 1913 and proceeded slowly because of bureaucratic hinderances. Griffin’s position was abolished in 1920. Focused effort on development began in the 1950s. Central Canberra has a Federal Triangle, with the apex being the Parliament building, the sides a pair of bridges over the artificial Lake Burley Griffin, and the War Memorial at the base.

The veiw of the Federal Triangle from Mount Ainslie

We visited the Parliament Building, a very large complex containing the chambers for the House of Delegates, the Senate, the committee rooms, a great hall for concerts and dinners, offices, and more. There’s a central hall with portraits of all the Prime Ministers, art work, a replica of the Magna Carta, and explanatory signage. There is also a gift shop, which I had to leave quickly so as to not buy stuff.

Australia’s Parliament House
The Senate Chamber

Looking across the Federal Triangle from the Parliament building, you see the Old Parliament building which was a temporary space for the Federal government while the Parliament House was being constructed. Then in the distance you can see the Australian War Memorial. We stopped outside the Old Parliament building for a photo, and then went on to the Australian War Memorial.

The Old Parliament Building

The War Memorial is at the end of a boulevard called the Anzac Parade, which is lined with memorials for specific conflicts and wars (for example, Korea, Vietnam, the Boer War) and memorials celebrating groups such as military nurses. We stopped briefly at the Australian War Memorial and walked into the central memorial courtyard, into the Hall of Memory, and along the gallery of names of the fallen, which have been decorated by poppy flowers. We also witnessed the changing of the guard.

The War Memorial courtyard
Poppies on the Wall of Names

We drove through several suburban communities and passed the National Museum, with a dramatic sculpture alongside Lake Burley Griffin. Then we went to Costco. Because you never really know about a country until you have visited their Costco.  

Sculpture at the National Museum