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Why is Canberra capital of Australia? – Explanation Logo

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 find a compromise: the capital should become a city between the two centers Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra, the new capital.

It is a city, as from the drawing board, as 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 government part.

Long before: Native people settled in the area

Archaeological excavations now show that Canberra and the surrounding area have been inhabited for at least 21,000 years, if not much longer. It is very likely that as early as 40 to 62,000 years ago, people had settled southeast of New South Wales to live there. So-called Aborigines, the indigenous people 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 then Molonglo River, which now produces Lake Burley Griffin, was examined.
Four years later the first homestead was built, which corresponds to a built-up plot of land. The owner of the homestead called his farm “Canberry”, from which the name “Canberra” was later derived. Incidentally, the Aborigines translate Canberra as “meeting point”.

Almost 10 years later, in 1833, there were almost 500 European people living in the area, and the more of them settled there, the fewer Aborigines there were. The primary reason for this was serious illnesses such as measles and smallpox. In addition, the new European farms destroyed the former hunting grounds of the indigenous people. Half a century later, the Aborigines and their culture were as good as extinct, partly due to assimilation into the “new” social group, also through mixed marriages, and partly through forced resettlement to distant areas.

A long way to the capital

Six British colonies formed the “Australian Confederation” over a century ago, more precisely on the first day of 1901. Melbourne was the largest city on the Australian continent and therefore automatically claimed the status of “capital”, which half of the colonies also supported.
New South Wales, the most powerful of the six colonies and Queensland, however, favored the very large and at the same time much older city, Sydney. Of course, each of the centers insisted on their favor, and no city would have accepted giving precedence to the other. on the other hand the much older city of Sydney. The rivalry between the two regional centers was so great that neither city would have accepted it if the other had been declared the capital.
The decision for Canberra was not made 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). also 8,400 cattle and 225,000 sheep. Meanwhile, an international competition was announced for the future design of the new capital, which was won the following year by the architect Walter Burley Griffin from the USA.

Starting with the survey work at the end of February 1913, it still took more than 14 years for Canberra to finally become the capital. The outbreak of World War I in 1914, frequent floods and a number of disputes at the bureaucracy level 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 provisional parliament building (today: Old Parliament House) on May 9, 1927 was a resounding highlight, because from that day on, Canberra was finally officially the capital of Australia.

Development and gradual build-up

For the time being, Canberra looked more like a village than a city, mainly due to the stagnating construction progress due to the global economic crisis at the end of the 1920s. Due to a lack of funds, it was not possible to build large houses of worship, which was not made up for afterwards.

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 still exists today, emerged only 22 years later.

The lake in the heart of the city, long planned by Griffin, was implemented in 1960 and was named “Lake Burley Griffin” in honor of its creator.
The new capital enjoyed a great boom during the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, the transformation from village to city took place, which was also noticeable in the quadrupled population.

The exact number of inhabitants today comprised 332,798 citizens a good ten years ago, about half of whom are government employees. The current parliament building, covered with grass on the roof, was inaugurated and moved into in 1988.


The primary sights of Canberra can be found in the overall picture of its planned structure : the city seems as if it was constructed entirely with a ruler and compass.

But also the interesting National Science & amp; Technology Center can be visited and experienced here, because here you can actually use most of the exhibits to explore for yourself what it is like when there is an earthquake, for example.

The National Gallery , on the other hand, allows visitors to immerse themselves 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.