Canberra, Australia's Capital I
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2009
With the coming of the Australian Federation in 1901, the new constitution required the establishment of a capital. Not Sydney, not Melbourne--but an entirely new seat of government.
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Lead: With the coming of the Australian Federation in 1901, the new constitution required the establishment of a capital. Not Sydney, not Melbourne--but an entirely new seat of government.
Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: Prior to 1900 the continent of Australia was divided between six separate European colonies: New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia, and Southern Australia. In the debates leading to Federation, regional rivalries were so intense, particularly between Sydney and Melbourne, that the price for agreement was a new capital in New South Wales--but at least 100 miles from Sydney.
Professor Geoffrey Hawker, Macquarie University, Sydney: "The constitution also provides that until the Federation capitol is established Parliament will meet in Melbourne . . . So that was there in '27 when the Parliament moved to Canberra . . . There was pressure to get out of Melbourne, there was terrific countervailing pressure not to get out of Melbourne--very comfortable, the heads of the departments are there, the prospect where it arises of moving to the dust bowl of the newly established Canberra . . . was bitterly resisted. It wasn't a story of, 'We must have a national capitol, the sooner the better; let's build it quickly and let's all go there' . . . it was done very reluctantly, really."
Forty districts were considered, seeking water supply and moderate climate. In 1908 a site was chosen on the limestone plains at the base of Black Mountain about 100 miles southwest of Sydney. It was called by indigenous people "a meeting place," using the Aboriginal word, Kamberra.
Next: The Prairie School comes to Australia.
The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.