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Why is Canberra the capital of Australia? – Explanation

Why is Canberra the capital of Australia? - Explanation

The origin of the history of today's capital of Australia can be found in the dispute over the said title between Sydney and Melbourne. At the beginning of the 20th century, politicians decided without further ado to reach a compromise: the capital should become a city between the two centers Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra, the new capital.

It's a city, like from the drawing board, since it consists of circular roads with axes that appear to be arranged like “rays”. A reservoir divides Canberra into the northern city and the southern part of the government.

Long before: Native people settled in the area

Archaeological excavations today prove that Canberra and the surrounding area has been inhabited for at least 21,000 years, if not much longer. It is very likely that even as early as 40,000 to 62,000 years earlier, people settled south-east of New South Wales to dwell there. So-called Aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia, lived here long before the European settlers.

In 1820, the first of a total of four European research expeditions took place, during which the area of ​​the centrally located lake, the Molonglo River at that time, which today produces Lake Burley Griffin, was examined.
Four years later, the first was created Farmstead, which corresponds to a rural-type built-up lot. The owner of the homestead called his farm “Canberry”, from which the name “Canberra” was later derived. Incidentally, the Aborigines translate Canberra as “meeting place”.

Nearly 10 years later, in 1833, nearly 500 Europeans lived in the area, and the more of them settled there, the fewer Aborigines became. The primary reason for this was serious diseases such as measles and smallpox. In addition, the new farms of the Europeans destroyed the former hunting grounds of the natives. Half a century later, the Aborigines and their culture were all but extinct, partly due to assimilation into the 'new' social group, including through intermarriage, and partly due to forced resettlement in distant areas.

A long way to the capital

Six British colonies formed the “Australian Confederation” over a century ago, on the first day of 1901 to be precise. Melbourne was the largest city on the Australian continent and so automatically claimed 'capital' status, which half the colonies supported.
New South Wales, the most powerful of the six colonies and Queensland, however, favored the also very large and at the same time much older city, Sydney. Of course, each of the centers insisted on their favoritism, and neither city would have accepted giving precedence to the other. the much older city of Sydney. The rivalry between the two major centers was such that neither city would have accepted the other being declared the capital.

The DecisionCanberra did not fall until the beginning of the 20th century, in 1908. At that time, the Canberra area was still very rural through and through, it covered 2358 square kilometers and had only 1714 inhabitants in 1911 (April) as well as 8400 cattle and 225,000 sheep. Meanwhile, an international competition for the future design of the new capital was announced, which was then won the following year by the architect Walter Burley Griffin from the USA.

Beginning with the survey work at the end of February 1913, it still took more than 14 years before Canberra finally became the capital. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914, frequent floods and a number of bureaucratic disputes delayed the work and construction of the new residence. The majority of all government buildings there were built in the 1920s, but the opening of the temporary parliament building (today: Old Parliament House) wason May 9, 1927, a resounding highlight, because from that day on, Canberra was officially the capital of Australia.

Development and gradual construction

Canberra was initially effective, mainly due to the stagnating construction progress due to the global economic crisis Late 20's, more like a village than a town. Due to a lack of funds, it was not possible to build large places of worship, which was not made up for afterwards either.

Since Australia was involved in the Second World War, an airport was needed and a military base was created in 1940, from which the Canberra International Airport, which is still in use today, emerged 22 years later.

The one Griffin had planned long ago Lake in the heart of the city, was implemented in 1960 and was named “Lake Burley Griffin” in honor of its creator.
The new capital then enjoyed great boom during the 60s and 70s. During this time, the transformation from village to big city took place, which was also noticeable in the quadrupled population.

The exact number of inhabitants today, a good ten years ago comprised 332,798 citizens, of which about half are government employees. The current parliament building, which has a grass roof, was inaugurated and occupied in 1988.


Canberra's primary sights are arguably the overall picture of its planned structure: the city shines , as if it had been constructed entirely with a ruler and compass.

But the interesting National Science & Technology Centre can also be visited and experienced here, because here you can actually use most of the exhibits to find out for yourself how it is, for example, when there is an earthquake.

The National Gallery, on the other hand, immerses visitors in Aboriginal art, but also includes some European works. Furthermore, the Australian War Memorial is also located in Canberra, which is one of the world's largest war museums.

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