Aerial view of Parliament House, Canberra, with Commonwealth Offices at rear, showing Governmental area with regard to garden layout, 1929.
Image courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: A8875, 5
Role: To construct and administer Canberra.
Sir John Butters, Chief Commissioner
The Federal Capital Commission took over responsibility for the planning and development of Canberra on 1 January 1925. By that time, the Federal Capital Advisory Committee had overseen the partial construction of the Parliament House, the Hotel Canberra and some cottages in the suburbs of Acton, Ainslie, Braddon and Kingston. The government now abandoned the Advisory Committee's proposal to transfer only key personnel to Canberra and told the Federal Capital Commission to prepare for the transfer of 1,100 officers and their families. In the first two years of operation, the Commission completed the construction of the Parliament House, the Prime Minister's Lodge, built 500 cottages, several hotels and schools, West Block Offices, the Albert Hall, the Institute of Anatomy, the Australian School of Forestry and an Observatory on Mount Stromlo. Further development included hostels for housing single public servants and construction of the Sydney and Melbourne commercial buildings.
Problems arose for the Federal Capital Commission which both administered and developed the National Capital. Public servants transferred from Melbourne where they had known local government resented the Commission's often high-handed decision-making on local matters from which there was no appeal. The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 meant that the government cut expenditure on the Capital and disbanded the Commission. Canberra's development was returned to the divided departmental responsibility which had characterised its stop-start development since 1913. As a sop to residents, a partly elected, partly nominated Advisory Council was established to advise the Minister on all matters pertaining to the Capital.
Acknowledgement of Country
Our work is on the land of the Ngunnawal People, Ngunnawal Country. We pay our respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.