Sydney isn’t the capital of Australia!
Sydney is not the capital of Australia! What is this… Canberra?
Australia is one of those funny countries with a capital city that is not very well known or densely populated. Other examples of countries like this include Brazil with its capital Brasilia, Turkey with Ankara, and Switzerland with its capital city Bern. Foreigners often debate between Sydney, News South Wales (NSW) and Melbourne, Victoria (VIC) when asked what the capital of Australia is, but the correct answer is actually Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia?
The national capital has a population of around 400,000 people (only the 8th largest city in Australia), sitting between Sydney, NSW and Melbourne, VIC, you (and the rest of the world) may be wondering how this small city of Canberra, ACT became the Australian Capital Territory. Originally deciding upon the location for the country’s capital, the same tact as the resolution to any long-term relationship experiencing tension (in this case, the colonies) – compromise – was employed.
While political rivalries between colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania around the time of Federation (1 January 1901) began the debate on where to locate the Australian Capital and location of parliament house. It was decreed in The Constitution that the Parliament were to choose a site at least one hundred miles (160km) from Sydney, with Parliament to sit in Melbourne until the new capital was built. Yes, Australians in the early 20th Century built a whole new city to be the Australian capital.
The endearing word on the Canberra ACT streets is that the movers and shakers of the day wanted the Australian capital to be so far inland that it was safely out of reach from harm. The real reason, however, for choosing Canberra, ACT to sit as the Australian capital, is surprisingly, however not shockingly, much more philosophical and climatical.
NSW Commission Alexander Oliver was appointed to investigate potential sites for the federal Australian capital. A man of the belief that science and personal experience showed that “a warm, moist temperature” was unhealthy, and rather favoured “a bracing, recuperative climate” with “pure bracing mountain air… at the same time a stimulant and a tonic”. A climate suitable for “the various classes of the body politic whose home… will be at the Seat of Government.” A search that led to the creation of the humble Australian capital of Canberra, ACT.
For 21,000 years the Canberra region has been home to the Ngunnawal people, with Europeans settling into the area we know today as Canberra ACT in the early 1820’s. The first to settle in the area? Joshua John Moore, who established a stock station called ‘Canberry’. A name based on the Aboriginal name for the area ‘Kamberra’ or ‘Kamberry’.
While the search continued after Federation in 1901, The Australian Capital Territory was founded in 1911, kicking off a whole other round of decision making on entries for an international competition to design the new Australian capital. The winner? Architect partners and husband and wife, Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin. The result? A romantic stretching city of greenery, wide boulevards, lush parklands and a penchant for water features. A setting that we now know as the modern, thriving, and diverse Australian capital city brimming with cultural and natural experiences.
Why should I visit Canberra?
Visiting a city created purely for the purpose of being a capital may seem like the perfect place to learn about a country’s politics & visit parliament house (and you would be right), however Canberra ACT offers so much more. While visitors generally lean towards the view from above (hot air balloon rides) or the view from the water (boating in Lake Burley Griffin), we prefer the view from within.
At its core, Canberra is a cultural hub offering a booming hospitality and flourishing arts scene (including the city’s annual flower festival, Floriade). Unsurprising given its inspiring natural surrounds. Local favourites include Monster Kitchen and Bar, Molly, Bar Rochford and more. For a day wandering the hallowed halls of some of the country’s best galleries, head to the National Gallery of Australia, Nishi Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.
All to be enjoyed before or after retiring to Ovolo Nishi for an architectural and inspired stay. Book your room now within this cultural capital.
Jay Martin was born in Brisbane, Australia, but has spent his life traversing the world in search of excitement and freedom. From tearing up the slopes in Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand to backpacking across Europe and living the high-life in Asia, there’s always a new challenge on the horizon for this intrepid adventurer.
After graduating from the University of Queensland with a BBM (Marketing), and working at a few advertising agencies, Jay went out to start his own digital marketing firm. Assisting other businesses build their brands through the development of interesting and exciting content has helped him fine-tune his own passion for writing.
He is currently based between Hong Kong and Australia, with his job allowing him the freedom to travel and work from wherever his next escapade begins- as long as they have internet there.