The planning and development of Canberra from the selection of the site in 1909 to the mid-1950s was frustrated by bureaucratic bickering, political indifference and the effects of the Great Depression and the World War II.
The first steps towards an Australian federal capital were modest.
The Canadian Flagpole was located in a prominent position on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin at Regatta Point, Barrine Drive, Parkes. Its erection in 1957 lead to the eventual development of a significant central park in Canberra, now known as Commonwealth Park.
The founding of Canberra followed the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. The federation of the six Australian colonies meant that the new nation needed a national capital to represent its aspirations and to become the Seat of Government.
As a modern capital city, Canberra has an international reputation for its unique landscape. This landscape is a reflection of the inherent beauty of the site’s plains, fringing wooded hills and distant mountains, combined with the skill of a horticulturist and a landscape architect.
Federation of the Australian colonies had been discussed as early as 1847, but it was not until the 1880s that the movement gained any serious momentum. First, the ‘Federal Council of Australasia Act 1885’ established the Australasian Federal Council (which New South Wales refused to join).
In the years after 1927, Canberra established itself as a meeting place for politicians and lobby groups. Just as it had traditionally been a place where different groups of Aboriginal people could come together from distant places, it would be so again.
Although only Walter’s name appeared on their entry in the competition to design a federal capital for Australia, we know that Marion contributed to the design – significantly, as far as Walter was concerned:
On a bright day during the summer of 1979 (it could not be any better considering its consequences), Sir John Overall – former head of the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) – walked into our office ‘Mitchell/Giurgola Architects’ in New York.
The first European settlement of the area, later known as the Limestone Plains (or ‘Manarro’, as it was called by local Aboriginal people), occurred when Joshua John Moore established a station at what is now Acton (site of the National Museum of Australia) in 1823.
In the first day of January 1901, the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania joined together in a new Commonwealth of Australia.
In 1908, the Yass-Canberra district was selected as the site of the future capital of Australia. The government declared that the new capital would be ‘the finest capital city in the world’ and announced an international competition for the design of the city.
Canberra is Ngunnawal country. The Ngunnawal are the Indigenous people of this region and its first inhabitants. The neighbouring people are the Gundungurra to the north, the Ngarigo to the south, the Yuin on the coast, and the Wiradjuri inland.