History of the National Capital

Children's activities are held on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin by the National Capital Exhibition
Children's activities are held on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin by the National Capital Exhibition

1 January 1901: Commonwealth of Australia is declared. Section 125 of the new Australian Constitution states that the Seat of Government will 'be in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney'.

February 1902: First of several tours by Members of the House of Representatives  and Senators of potential sites for the Federal Capital and Federal Capital Territory (now the National Capital and Australian Capital Territory or A.C.T).

17 July 1903: Report of the Royal Commission on Sites for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth tabled in federal parliament. Report finds in favour of Albury and Tumut.

May 1904: Charles Scrivener, District Surveyor with NSW Department of Lands, reports on site options for the Federal Capital and recommends Dalgety.

15 August 1904: Seat of Government Act, 1904 confirms Dalgety as the site of the future capital.

1 October 1908: House of Representatives agrees to conduct a new ballot to choose the site of the National Capital with 11 site options.

8 October 1908: House of Representatives selects Yass-Canberra over Dalgety as the site for the National Capital, 39 votes to 33.

14 December 1908: Seat of Government (Yass-Canberra) 1908 receives Royal Assent. This repeals the 1904 Act.

22 May 1909: Charles Scrivener, after examining Mahkoolma, Yass, Gundaroo, Hall, Lake George and Canberra within the Yass-Canberra region, submits a report stating that the Canberra valley is the best site for the Capital within the region.

1 January 1911: The Federal Capital Territory comes into being with NSW ceding 2,360 square kilometres of land including the seaport of Jervis Bay.

30 April 1911: The Federal Capital City design competition is launched.

27 June 1911: Governor-General Lord Dudley officially opens the Royal Military College - Duntroon.

23 May 1912: Walter Burley Griffin's entry (number 29) is announced as the winner of the international competition to design Australia's new capital. The entry by Elial Saarinen of Finland is placed second and Professor Alf Agache of France is placed third.

12 March 1913: During a ceremony to mark the commencement of the National Capital Lady Denman, wife of the Governor-General, announces  'I name the capital of Australia Canberra'.

Lord Thomas Denman, the Prime Minster Andrew Fisher and the Minister for Home Affairs King O'Malley all lay stones into the base of a proposed column at this ceremony.

5 May 1913: Charles Weston arrives in Canberra as Officer-in-Charge (Afforestation Branch), Federal Capital Territory.

May 1913: Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin arrive in Australia, where Walter takes up the position of Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction.

18 March 1918: Griffin's last signed plan for Canberra, Canberra - Plan of City and Environs, which forms the basis of the 1925 Gazetted Plan is published.

31 December 1920: Walter Burley Griffin accepts termination of contract as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction 'under protest and with great regret'.

27 January 1921: First meeting of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee (FCAC), chaired by (Sir) John Sulman.

January 1924: First meeting of Federal Cabinet in Canberra, at Yarralumla Homestead (now the Governor-General's residence).

19 November 1925: Griffin Plan for Canberra (called 'Statutory Plan for Canberra') gazetted as result of Seat of Government (Administration) Act.

1925: The Federal Capital Advisory Committee is replaced by the Federal Capital Commission (FCC).

3 September 1926: First edition of The Canberra Times, a weekly publication.

9 May 1927: The Provisional Parliament House (now known as Old Parliament House) opens. Federal parliament sits in Canberra for the first time.

1928: Repeal of alcohol prohibition for the Federal Capital Territory.

1938: Federal Capital Territory renamed Australian Capital Territory. National Capital Planning and Development Committee (NCPDC) established.

8 December 1941: The lease for the Embassy of the United States of America, the first purpose built embassy, is signed. Due to the International Date Line, this is actually the day of the attack on Pearl Harbour.

1954: Australian-American Memorial on Russell Hill is completed.

1955: Prime Minister Robert Menzies sends a memo to his Interior Minister expressing concern about the 'appalling' state of Canberra's development. This leads to the appointment of a Senate Select Committee to 'Inquire into and Report on the Development of Canberra'.

1957: National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) is established to plan, develop and construct Canberra.

20 November 1957: The Canadian Flagpole is a gift from the Canadian Government to the Government of Australia and is almost 40m high situated at Regatta Point. For history and background information click here.

1958: The Administrative Building (now John Gorton Building) completed on the basis of the original 1924 plan. It is the first permanent building in the Parliamentary Zone.

20 September 1963: The valves on the newly completed Scrivener Dam are closed, allowing the waters of the Molonglo River to form Lake Burley Griffin.

1963: Kings and Commonwealth Avenues are completed. Construction of Woden commences. Monaro Mall (now part of the Canberra Centre), the first enclosed mall in Australia, opens.

17 October 1964: Lake Burley Griffin has filled and is inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies.

25 April 1965: ANZAC Parade opens on the 50th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in the First World War.

1966: Construction of Belconnen commences.

1967: The NCDC prepares the 'Y' Plan for Canberra that includes the development of a linear arrangement of town centres, each separated by hills and ridges, or open spaces. Parkes Way is proposed as the major east-west corridor between the town centres.

1970: The National Carillon is opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Captain Cook Memorial is inaugurated by her during the same visit.

1974: Capital Hill is selected as the site for the permanent parliament house. Construction of Tuggeranong commences.

1980: Mitchell/Giurgola - Thorp Architects win the Parliament House Design Competition.

9 May 1988: Parliament House is opened by the Queen, 61 years after her father opened Old Parliament House.

1989: The A.C.T. achieves self-government. The NCDC is replaced by the National Capital Planning Authority (later the National Capital Authority or NCA).

1990: The National Capital Plan is gazetted by the Commonwealth of Australia 'to ensure that Canberra and the Territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance'.

1997: Construction of Gungahlin commences.

2001: National Museum of Australia opens. Magna Carta Place is dedicated.

2002: Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place are opened.

2004: The National Capital Authority completes the Griffin Legacy study.

2008: The National Portrait Gallery is opened.

2009: The Museum of Australian Democracy, housed in Old Parliament House, is opened. Old Parliament House also contains the National Electoral Education Centre.

2013: The National Arboretum as the 100th birthday of Canberra is celebrated.