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Picture Gallery

The history of Canberra and the surrounding district is reflected in photographs taken over the last 120 years. We're building this feature from our own collection of over 5000 historical photographs, and selecting images from other collections.

Many of the images are available for purchase from the Canberra & District Historical Society.

Images include these photographs of Nil Desperandum in Tidbinbilla after the bushfires of 18 January 2003.

Click to view the picture gallery.

Chronology of the ACT

From 1820

The first European settler in the Canberra district is thought to have been Joshua John Moore. The land he took over covered the present Canberra city centre. Moore called his station after the name given by the Ngambri and Ngunnawal people who had occupied the district for millennia. The newcomers wrote the name as 'Canberry’ or ‘Kamberry’.

As explorers, drovers and pastoralists came to the Canberra district from the 1820s, water sources were taken over for sheep, horses and cattle and their traditional lands taken from the Ngunnawal, Walgalu and Ngarigo.


On 7 December Charles Throsby Smith, Joseph Wild and James Vaughan become the first Europeans to visit the Limestone Plains. They were searching for the Murrumbidgee River (the 'Big River') but after climbing Black Mountain they returned home.


In April Charles Throsby reaches the Murrumbidgee River near Pine Island in Tuggeranong.


On 1 June Captain Mark Currie and his exploration party pass through Tuggeranong which he calls Isabella's Plain after the daughter of Governor Brisbane. He goes on to explore the Monaro.


James Ainslie arrives on the Limestone Plains with a flock of sheep owned by Robert Campbell. Campbell is granted the land as compensation for a lost cargo ship and, by 1833, builds a homestead on the property which he calls 'Duntroon'.


The 'Terror of Argyle', the bushranger John Tennant, is captured by James Ainslie and two others near the Murrumbidgee River in Tuggeranong. Tennant had been a convict assigned to Moore at Canberry. Mt Tennant, behind Tharwa, is named after him.

No official records exist of the number of Indigenous people in the Canberra area. William Davis Wright, an early settler, spoke of a tribe between 400 and 500 at the time of European settlement. The 1828 census showed 21 white inhabitants living in Canberra and 15 in Ginninderra.


Garrett Cotter, a ticket-of-leave man working near Lake George, was banished to live beyond the 'limits of occupation' - the area west of the Murrumbidgee - after becoming embroiled in a dispute between his employer and his employers' neighbour. Cotter lived in the Cotter River valley, which is named after him, for five years with the help of friendly Aborigines before eventually being conditionally pardoned and moving to Michelago.


As well as Canberry, by 1835 stations had been established at Duntroon, Palmerville (Ginninderra), Springbank, Yarralumla, Tuggeranong and Lanyon.


On 12 March St. John the Baptist Church of England was consecrated by Bishop Broughton. A school house opened nearby in the same year.


William Davis (junior) establishes Gungahlin incorporating the Ginninderra estate.


The Canberra Post Office was established with local school teacher, Andrew Wotherspoon becoming the first postmaster. There was already a post office at Ginninderra (1859) and at Lanyon (1860).


Ebenezer Booth establishes the first public store at Glebe Farm in the middle of what is now Commonwealth Park. It later became Murray's bakery and store before it burned down in 1923.


William Farrer resigns from the NSW Lands Department to work full-time on his experiments with wheat at Lambrigg, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.


The railway service to Queanbeyan commenced.


Tharwa Bridge, the first bridge in this district across the Murrumbidgee River, was opened on 27 March by Elizabeth McKeahnie.


January 1899
A meeting of colonial premiers decides that the new Federal capital should be within New South Wales but not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.

November 1899
The New South Wales government issues a Royal Commission to Alexander Oliver to report on 45 sites proposed even before the Commonwealth was born.


11 June 1900
The Oliver Royal Commission on sites for the proposed Federal capital takes evidence at Queanbeyan in support of the Canberra area. Speakers include John Gale, Dr. Patrick Blackall, William Farrer and prominent local pastoralists such as Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla, Andrew Cunningham from Lanyon, William Davis Wright, Samson Southwell and John Fitzgerald.

9 July 1900
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 was enacted. Section 125 of the Constitution provided for a site for a capital city in New South Wales, but at least 100 miles from Sydney. The Constitution also provided that, like Washington, the territory for the new capital would have a minimum area of 100 square miles.

Immediately the Constitution became law, debate about the site began in earnest.

October 1900
The Oliver Royal Commission report recommends the Bombala-Eden district as the Federal capital site.


1 January 1901
The inauguration of the Federation of the six Australian colonies was the birthday of the Australian nation.


December 1902
William Lyne, Minister for Home Affairs in Edmund Barton’s Government, set up a Capital Sites Enquiry Board that became a Commission the following year. Earlier in 1902 he had arranged train tours by parliamentarians to review possible locations.


July 1903
The report of the Capital Sites Enquiry Commissioners on nine nominated sites favoured Albury or Tumut.

October 1903
After William Lyne introduced a Seat of Government Bill the House of Representatives held a ballot to decide on a site, with Tumut the winner. When the Bill went to the Senate, the Bill was amended in favour of Bombala. The Bill was then stalled when Parliament ended for the Federal election on 16 December.


The first Seat of Government Act nominated a large area at Dalgety as the site for the Federal capital but Parliament continued to debate the issue without reaching agreement.


Parliamentarians examined the Yass-Canberra district as a possible site for the Federal capital.

16 April 1906
'Australia's greatest benefactor', wheat experimentalist William Farrer, dies at his home at Lambrigg.


June 1907
A number of parliamentarians, including the acting Prime Minister Sir John Forrest and former Prime Minister J.C. Watson, visit Canberra. Forrest reported to Parliament his preference for Dalgety over Canberra.

July 1907
Former Prime Ministers George Reid and J.C. Watson speak strongly in favour of Canberra in Parliament. John Gale's paper, Dalgety or Canberra: Which?, is read at a public meeting in Queanbeyan and later published as a pamphlet and distributed to parliamentarians.


October 1908
Yass-Canberra won a House of Representatives ballot on preferred sites for the national capital. In November the Senate then held another ballot, with Tumut and Yass–Canberra tied for first place. Senator James McColl, who had nominated Tumut, then switched his vote and the Yass-Canberra area became the preferred site of both houses of Parliament.

December 1908
The Government of Andrew Fisher repealed the 1904 Seat of Government Act and enacted legislation approving a Yass–Canberra site for the national capital. Minister for Home Affairs, Hugh Mahon appointed NSW Government Surveyor Charles Scrivener to identify and survey the site for the city. Scrivener surveyed the site ‘in an amphitheatre of hills with an outlook towards the north and north-east’ and noted the Molonglo River floodplain could form a central ornamental lake.


March 1909
Charles Scrivener establishes a camp on the slopes of Kurrajong Hill (Capital Hill) to begin his preliminary survey of the Canberra site. Scrivener presented his report on Canberra as the site for the national capital in May 1909.

18 October 1909
Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and New South Wales Premier Charles Wade signed an ‘agreement of surrender of territory to the Commonwealth’ based on Scrivener's recommended site.

13 December 1909
The Commonwealth Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 was enacted when Governor-General Lord Dudley signed his assent.

14 December 1909
The New South Wales Government enacted the Seat of Government Surrender Act 1909 enabling the transfer of the site for the Federal Capital Territory – the day after the Commonwealth had accepted the land.


January 1910
Scrivener established his survey camp below Kurrajong Hill (Capital Hill). He was joined by surveyors Percival, Sheaffe and Martin. On 31 January the Minister for Home Affairs George Fuller arrived to officially begin the contour survey.

April 1910
The Seat of Government (Administration) Act was passed which provided a legal framework for the administration of the ‘Territory for the Seat of Government’. The Act authorised the continued use of New South Wales law as well as ordinances approved by the Governor-General and Parliament.

June 1910
Percy Sheaffe begins the survey of the Territory's border at Mt. Coree, moving in a straight line to One Tree Hill near Hall.

7 November 1910
The Commonwealth leases Duntroon homestead and 370 acres from Colonel John Campbell for the Military College of Australia. Duntroon is not acquired by the Commonwealth until July 1912.


1 January 1911
The 'Territory for the Seat of Government' was established as an area of 2,360 square kilometres in the Yass-Canberra district occupied by 1,714 non-Indigenous people on pastoral properties grazing some 224,764 sheep. Additional land at Jervis Bay as a seaport for the proposed national capital city was included in the new Territory.

As a consequence of the creation of the Territory the residents are stripped of the franchise. They do not regain full voting rights at the Federal level until 1966, nor representation at the local level until the granting of self-government in 1989.

24 May 1911
The Federal Capital Design Competition was opened to be judged by a committee consisting of surveyor John M. Coane, engineer J.A. Smith and architect John Kirkpatrick. 137 entries would be received.

June 1911
Acton, the original Canberry property of J.J. Moore which had been renamed when he sold it in 1843, becomes the first property in the new Territory to be resumed by the Commonwealth because, legend has it, the Minister for Home Affairs, King O'Malley disliked the English mannerisms of the tenant, Arthur Brassey. The first houses, offices and business premises for the new capital were built at Acton.

On 27 June the Royal Military College at Duntroon was officially opened by the Governor-General, Lord Dudley. RMC was the first Commonwealth facility in the new capital.

September 1911
The first astronomical observations are made from the Oddie telescope at Mount Stromlo Observatory.


May 1912
US architect Walter Burley Griffin was announced as the winner of the competition to design the national capital. Finn Eliel Saarinen comes second and Frenchman Alfred Agache wins the third prize. The selection committee also purchases the design of the Australian team of Griffiths, Coulter and Caswell.

27 June 1912
After criticism of the winning design King O'Malley, Minister for Home Affairs in the Fisher Government, referred the three top entries in the competition to a Departmental Board consisting of David Miller, Percy Owen (Director-General of Works), Charles Scrivener, George Oakeshott (Works Director in NSW), John Smith Murdoch (architect) and Thomas Hill (Works Director, Victoria).

August 1912
Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Colonel David Miller, is appointed as Administrator of the Federal Territory.

25 November 1912
The Departmental Board reported to O’Malley that it was unable to recommend the adoption of any of the plans and puts forward its own plan incorporating features from the four purchased designs. It is adopted by the Government in January 1913.


20 February 1913
King O’Malley, the Minister for Home Affairs, ceremoniously drives in the first peg for the city design to mark the axis between the Capitol and Mount Ainslie based on the Departmental Board design (not Griffins). Mrs. Jane Miller, wife of the Administrator of the Federal Territory, names the site ‘Canbera’ Hill.

12 March 1913
Canberra’s foundation ceremony was held on Capital Hill. Governor-General Lord Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, and Minister for Home Affairs King O’Malley laid the foundation stones for a Commencement Column and Lady Denman announced the name chosen for the city. (For more information on the ceremony, refer to the CDHS booklet 'Canberra' produced for Canberra Day 2001).

24 June 1913
The Fisher Government is defeated at the Federal election on 31 May. On 24 June 1913 Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister and William H. Kelly (Minister without portfolio) assumes responsibility for the Federal Territory.

18 October 1913
After abandoning the Departmental Board plan for Canberra, Kelly appoints Walter Griffin as Director of Federal Capital Design and Construction for a three year term.


A further area of land at Jervis Bay was added to the Federal Capital Territory amid speculation about development there of 'Pacific City' as a seaport for Canberra.


10 February 1915
The Royal Australian Navy’s Jervis Bay naval college, HMAS Creswell, was officially opened. The Royal Australian Navy had been established in 1911.

3 September 1915
The funeral takes place of Major General Sir William Bridges, commander of the first AIF and founding commandant of RMC, Duntroon who was killed on Gallipoli. Bridges is buried on the slopes of Mt. Pleasant. His grave is the only Walter Burley Griffin designed edifice in Canberra.


The Molonglo Internment Camp is built to house German nationals. After the war it is used as accommodation for workers and their families. It later becomes the industrial suburb of Fyshwick.

December 1918
Plans to establish an arsenal and township of 10 000 people at Tuggeranong are put on hold due to the end of World War 1.


31 December 1921
Prime Minister Billy Hughes removed Walter Burley Griffin from his position directing the construction of Canberra.


The first sale of leases in the Territory occurs on 12 December. J.B Young Ltd buys the first site on Giles Street, Eastlake (now Kingston).


The Federal Capital Commission began operations on 1 January. The FCC was charged with developing Canberra to allow the transfer of public servants and Parliament by 1927.


The Canberra Times was issued for the first time on 3 September with subscribers paying three pence for the sixteen page edition. It was initially a weekly paper.


The Territory Police Force was established, headed by Major Harold.E Jones.

Records show registration of 373 cars, 60 trucks, 55 motorcycles and 520 people licensed to drive.

9 May 1927
The ceremonial opening of Parliament in Canberra’s provisional Parliament House. As well as the Parliament House, The Lodge and Government House were completed as residences for the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, and the Hotel Canberra, and the Kurrajong Hotel housed parliamentarians.

East and West Blocks were built for public service offices, the Capitol Theatre opened in Manuka and hostels and houses were built at Ainslie, Reid and Forrest, Eastlake (Kingston) and Westridge (Yarralumla). The Royal Military College, Duntroon, a small hospital, the Cotter Dam, the power house at Kingston, the brickworks at Yarralumla and construction camps for workers were also other features of the new capital city.

3 December 1927
The Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, officially opened Canberra's city centre. Despite Bruce's opposition to the name, Walter Burley Griffin's appellation 'Civic Centre' or just 'Civic' is commonly adopted by Canberrans.


Prohibition on the sale of liquor is lifted.

10 March 1928
The Albert Hall on Commonwealth Avenue is opened by Prime Minister Stanley Bruce. It was named after the Duke of York and was designed to provide a civic and cultural heart to the nation.


An Advisory Council was established to administer the capital.


The Manuka Pool opens in January. The Federal Highway linking Canberra to Collector and Goulburn in New South Wales was completed. The road was built as an unemployment relief work during the Depression, when Canberra’s population remained around 7 000. Radio 2CA commences broadcasting from a shop in Kingston.


On 1 January the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory was established as a superior court of record. Until then the High Court of Australia had jurisdiction over the Territory. The Supreme Court first met at Acton House in February 1934.


Air services to and from Canberra began. Planes landed on an airfield built near Duntroon.


The Federal Capital Territory, as it is popularly but not legislatively known, is renamed as the Australian Capital Territory with effect on 29 July.


Canberra endures a record hot spell including 8 consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Bushfires burn large areas west of the Murrumbidgee and threaten Mount Stromlo. Canberra hosts the jubilee congress of ANZAAS with guest speaker H.G. Wells.

The population of Canberra was 10 000 when Prime Minister Robert Menzies declared Australia at war with Germany. A rapid expansion occurred with some 3 000 public service families brought to Canberra as well as military personnel.

With Australia developing direct diplomatic relations with foreign countries, there was also an influx of diplomatic staff.


13 August 1940
In the ‘Canberra air disaster’ the chief military officer and three senior ministers in the Menzies Government were killed when their aeroplane crashed on the southern approach to Canberra. The air base at Canberra was later renamed RAAF Base Fairbairn after the Minister for Air, J.V. Fairbairn, who died in the crash.


11 November 1941
The Australian War Memorial was officially opened.


After Japanese planes bombed Darwin the Royal Australian Air Force base at Fairbairn was upgraded to provide anti-submarine patrols off the eastern coast. With Japanese forces occupying islands to the north of Australia, three Royal Dutch Air Force squadrons were moved to Canberra from their bases there.

4 July 1942
The foundation stone for the American Embassy was laid. The Embassy, was the first built in Canberra and was opened in 1943.


A small camp for Italian and German internees aliens was established. The occupants worked on forestry projects.


16 August 1945
A victory parade was held in the centre of the city to celebrate the end of the war.


11 May 1949
The Australian Capital Territory gained a seat in the House of Representatives, though the ACT Member could only vote on matters directly affecting the Territory. This seat was created under the 1948 Representation Act which increased the size of the House of Representatives from 75 to 122 seats.


February 1954
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first reigning monarch to visit Australia. As well as opening Parliament she unveils the Australian-American Memorial at Russell. Her visit highlighted the ceremonial role of Canberra as the national capital.

May 1954
The Royal Commission on Soviet Espionage (the so-called Petrov Affair) conducts hearings at the Albert Hall.

September 1954
Author Miles Franklin dies. She was a member of the Franklin family of Brindabella and several of her books are set in the district around Canberra.

November 1954
With Canberra’s population 39 000, a Senate Select Committee chaired by Senator John McCallum begins hearings on the development of Canberra. Its recommendations led to the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission to implement a coordinated plan.


The National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) is established in October by an Act of Parliament. It began operations in 1958 under Commissioner John Overall. The NCDC assumes responsibility for the planning and development of Canberra including Lake Burley Griffin, Parliament House and the new towns of Woden Valley, Weston Creek, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin.


25 February 1960
Australia signed an agreement with the USA allowing them to establish satellite tracking stations in the Australian Capital Territory, at Orroral Creek, Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla. In July 1969 Honeysuckle Creek transmitted to the world the first images and words of Neil Armstrong from the Moon.


Kings Avenue bridge becomes the first permanent crossing over the future lake.


6 March 1963
The Monaro Mall is opened in Civic by Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. It was the first fully air-conditioned shopping mall in Australia.

9 May 1963
The Supreme Court of the ACT sits for the first time in the newly constructed Law Courts Building in Civic.

30 November 1963
The Albert Hall hosts the first televised broadcast of the National Tally Room for the Federal Election.


The restored Blundells Cottage is handed over to the Canberra and District Historical Society on 12 March 1964 to operate as a museum.

Lake Burley Griffin was officially opened in October by Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. A key part of the Griffins’ design for Canberra, the Lake was formed by damming the Molonglo River.

The first of a series of new towns, planned by the National Capital Development Commission, was opened at Woden, south-west of Canberra, with an exposition held in Hughes on 9 May.


The Royal Australian Mint was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in February. He started a machine that produced one-cent coins.

Anzac Parade officially opened on 25 April to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landing at Gallipoli.

The Canberra Theatre opened in June.


The second of the new towns planned for Canberra was inaugurated at Belconnen on 23 June. Early designs allowed for 120 000 residents.


The population of Canberra reached 100,000.


The neo-classical National Library, designed by Walter Bunning, is opened in August.

The foundation stone for the Canberra College of Advanced Education is dedicated by Prime Minister John Gorton on 28 October.


A severe thunderstorm over Woden Valley on 26 January causes flash floods on Yarra Glen where seven people drown.


On Australia Day, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the front lawns of Old Parliament House.

The Woden Plaza was opened on 18 September by the Prime Minister, William McMahon.


The third of the new towns planned for Canberra was inaugurated at Tuggeranong on 21 February. It was originally planned to house between 180 000 to 220 000 people.


The ACT Advisory Council, established in 1930, became an elected Legislative Assembly, advising the Department of the Capital Territory.

5 August 1974
The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory were each allocated two Senate seats, expanding the Senate to 64 seats.


The National Athletics Stadium is completed in time for the Pan Pacific Conference Games. It is later known as Bruce Stadium and then Canberra Stadium.


The Belconnen Mall was opened in February.

A referendum on 25 November resulted in ACT residents rejecting a proposal for self-Government, with 63% of Canberrans voting for no change to the then arrangements.


The 1974 Legislative Assembly became a House of Assembly, dissolved in 1986 prior to the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988, which established a Legislative Assembly with full powers to make laws for the ACT. This met for the first time in May 1989.

19 October 1979
The Australian Federal Police force was formed by combining the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police, and the Federal Narcotics Bureau.


May 1980
A large telecommunications tower (later known as Telstra Tower) was opened on Black Mountain on 15 May by the Prime Minister. Complete with viewing platforms and a revolving restaurant, the construction of the tower had caused many arguments and protests, when it was first proposed by the Postmaster-General's Department to crown Black Mountain with a 195-metre concrete structure.

The High Court of Australia opened on 26 May.

26 June 1980
The architectural firm of Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp win the design competition for the new Parliament House.

18 September 1980
The first sod is turned for the new Parliament House.


Construction begins on the Australian Defence Force Academy on a site adjacent to the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

On 26 January the Australian Institute of Sport was officially opened by Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. The original eight sports were basketball, gymnastics, netball, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, and weight-lifting.


Namadgi National Park is formally declared. It covers more than 106 000 hectares; about half of the ACT. A national park in the area was first proposed by William Farrer in 1901.


World Cup Athletics is held at Bruce Stadium in October. East German Marita Koch sets a world record of 47.60 seconds in the women’s 400 metres, which still stood more than 20 years later.


Canberra's population reaches 250 000


The Tuggeranong Hyperdome opens in November promising "shopping in the 21st century".


The Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 established a Legislative Assembly with full powers to make laws for the ACT.

9 May 1988
The new Parliament House, constructed on Capital Hill, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.


31 January
The National Capital Authority replaced the National Capital Development Commission.

4 March 1989
The first ACT Legislative Assembly elections are held using the modified d’Hondt electoral system with over 100 hundred candidates. Five members are elected from the ALP, four from the Liberal Party, four from the Residents Rally, three from the No Self Government Party and one member of the Abolish Self-Government Coalition.

11 May 1989
Following the granting of self government, the new ACT Legislative Assembly met for the first time. Rosemary Follett (ALP) was elected Chief Minister.

24 September 1989
The Canberra Raiders win their first NSW rugby league grand-final. They would win the premiership in 1990 and 1994.

5 December 1989
A coalition of non-Labor MLAs results in Trevor Kaine (Liberal) becoming Chief Minister.


The Canberra College of Advanced Education became the University of Canberra.


In June Trevor Kaine (Liberal) was replaced by Rosemary Follett (ALP) as Chief Minister.

On 18 October the Chief Minister of the ACT officially launched Canberra's fourth new town Gungahlin. The first residents move into the suburb of Palmerston in March 1992.


The second election for the ACT Legislative Assembly is held in February as well as a referendum which changed the electoral system to the Hare-Clark system as of 1995. The ALP wins eight of the 17 seats and Rosemary Follett remains as Chief Minister.

1 July 1992
The ACT Supreme Court (Transfer) Act 1992 transfers the Supreme Court from Commonwealth to Territory administration.


11 November 1993
To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War 1 the body of an unknown Australian soldier was recovered from a cemetery near Villers-Bretonneux in France and re-interred in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial.


18 February 1995
The Liberal Party wins the most seats at the Legislative Assembly election and Kate Carnell becomes Chief Minister. These are the first elections using the Hare-Clark electoral system.

Canberra's population reaches 300 000 of which approximately 60 000 live in Central Canberra, 34 000 in Woden Valley, 26 000 in Weston Creek, 88 000 in Belconnen, 85 000 in Tuggeranong and 7 000 in the rest of the ACT.


The ACT Brumbies became part of the first Super 12 rugby union tournament. They would win their first championship in 2001.


In July an implosion, to bring down the Royal Canberra Hospital in Acton, caused debris to fly, killing a 12 year old girl and injuring nine other spectators. The hospital was demolished to make way for the National Museum of Australia.


The Australian National Korean War Memorial was unveiled on Anzac Parade in April.

Canberra hosts Olympic Games soccer at Bruce Stadium in September.

Kate Carnell (Liberal) resigns as Chief Minister and is succeeded by Gary Humphries (Liberal). The ACT’s population reaches 311,000.


8 March 2001
The National Museum of Australia opens.

24 April 2001
On the eve of Anzac day, the New Zealand Memorial on Anzac Parade was officially dedicated.

20 October 2001
The ALP wins eight seats at the ACT Legislative Assembly elections and Jon Stanhope (ALP) becomes Chief Minister. An electronic voting system is used for the first time.

Two major bushfires on Christmas Eve and three on Christmas Day ravaged areas in and around Canberra.


On 18 January, a state of emergency was declared as bushfires from New South Wales moved into Canberra's south-west and northern suburbs. Four people were killed and more than 500 buildings were destroyed including houses in Weston Creek, Tuggeranong and Woden Valley. Thousands of hectares of forest and parkland were burnt out.

Canberra became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce a plan to phase out smoking in clubs, pubs and licensed venues.


The Parliament of ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce a bill of rights (Human Rights Act 2000) to help to protect freedom of expression, religion and movement.

May 2004
The winners of the Canberra International Arboretum competition were announced as Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects, in conjunction with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects. Their design concept was for 100 Forests 100 Gardens.

October 2004
The ALP becomes the first majority government in the history of the ACT Legislative Assembly when they win nine seats in the election. Jon Stanhope (ALP) is re-elected as Chief Minister.

The Mount Stromlo Observatory, which was devastated by the 2003 Canberra bushfires, officially reopened to the public with an Open Day on 30 October.


18 October 2008
The ACT Legislative Assembly election resulted in the ALP winning seven seats, the Liberal Party six seats and the Greens four seats. Jon Stanhope (ALP) is again elected Chief Minister.

Atkins, Ruth The Government of the Australian Capital Territory University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1978.

Drinkwater, Derek, 'How McDougall reached the shore: the Senate and the Federal capital site 1901–1910', Canberra Historical Journal, vol. 42, September 1998, pp. 26–35.

Emerton, Val, 'Kingston and thereabouts through a Box Brownie', Canberra Stories Group, 1996.

Fitzhardinge, LF, 'Old Canberra and the Search for a Capital', Canberra & District Historical Society, Canberra, 1983.

McDonald, DI, '"The Reid Blot": the seat of government', Canberra Historical Journal, 21 March 1988, pp. 26–35.

Moore, Bruce, Cotter Country, Canberra, 1999.

Pegrum, Roger, The Bush Capital, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1983.

Sparke, Eric, Canberra: 1954-1980, AGPS, Canberra, 1988.

District Glimpses

The wide-ranging research done by historians of our district offers fascinating historical glimpses.

From this work, and the answers to questions sent to the C&DHS Research Service, we have compiled a mosaic of glimpses into the past.

You can choose to look at either or .

If you would like to find out about a specific place or person, use the site for a quick answer.



Two of the 40-foot figures in the Hall of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial, the nurse and the infantryman, were completed in October 1956. Napier Waller, the artist, worked in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, where there was enough space for his 80ft drops. Each piece of the mosaic, measuring about 1/2 inch square, was placed in position by hand, following closely the artist's design. The prepared pieces, about 18 inches by 12 inches, glued to a brown paper backing, were sent in special boxes to Canberra, where Aldo Rossi, a trained Italian mosaic worker, dove-tailed the pieces into the larger design on the walls of the Hall of Remembrance. The cost of the work was being covered by sale of the War Memorial's war books.


Monaro Mall
The Monaro Mall was opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies on 6 March 1963. It was the first fully enclosed, three level shopping centre in Australia. It was later incorporated into the Canberra Centre which was opened by the Chief Minister of the ACT, Rosemary Follett, on 2 November 1989.


The old farm buildings at St Clement's Monastery in Galong date from a time when the monastery had an attached farm. With a ready supply of labour, the farm supplied produce for the boys high school, part of the monastery campus.

One of the buildings is a wooden shed and concrete yard, where cattle and sheep were slaughtered and the carcasses hung in the meat-shed. On the outside wall of the shed a painted sign commemorates the builder, and the beasts:

Haec est domus
a Joanne aedificata
in qua boves ovesque
cum dignitate moriantur.
('This is a house built by John, in which cattle and sheep may die with dignity.')
A later inscription offers the less elevated comment ‘Quid stercus tauri’ ('What dung of a bull').


Gungahlin Homestead
In 1861 William Davis junior acquired land and built the first part of ‘Gungahlin’ homestead in the next two years. Davis planted many trees and did much work in the area, but in 1877 left the district in tragic circumstances. His nephew, Henry William Ernest Palmer, was killed at the Queanbeyan showground while riding one of Davis' horses.

Edward Kendall Crace took control of ‘Gungahlin’ and eventually bought it and Davis's Ginninderra estate. Crace added a substantial new wing to the building in 1882 and in subsequent years added a number of outbuildings, including staff quarters in 1888. Crace developed the ‘Gungahlin’ property and bred merino sheep and Devon cattle.

After Crace was drowned in Ginninderra Creek in 1892, his wife Kate continued to run the property until it was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1916. The ‘Gungahlin’ property was divided into a number of leases, and Everard Gregory Crace held the homestead lease and a small part of the estate. When he died in 1928 Dr Frederick Watson obtained the lease of the homestead portion. In 1940 he disposed of his lease to Mr I J Kitchen, of soap manufacturing fame. After Kitchen left, the building was used for a time as a hostel for university students.

The CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section (later the Division of Wildlife and Ecology) moved out to Gungahlin in October 1953. CSIRO has been responsible for further alterations and additions. The stone coach house, cellar and servants' quarters have, to some extent, been preserved, but the original roof has been replaced, new floors put in, new doorways formed and others altered. After a major survey by the Department of Transport and Construction in 1982, in which special note was made of the significance of Gungahlin as a ‘rare and important example of an English country house transplanted into an Australian setting’, funds were allocated for the renovation and conservation of the house, with a view to preserving its character.

The house is now used by CSIRO for ‘passive- type activities such as administration, general office functions and conference facilities’. The homestead is situated between Bellenden Street and Gungahlin Drive, Mitchell. There is no public access.


Springbank Island see People: Kaye family


Old Canberra Inn
Built in the 1860s as Joseph Shumack's home, this building was licensed as an inn in 1876 and run by Shumack until 1887. During this period the Canberra Inn was the venue for many meetings of local organizations, and horse-racing took place on the ground opposite. The building later became the home of John Read’s family and was renamed ‘The Pines’. Read descendants lived there until the 1970s.

In 1976, a century after the original licence was granted, the Old Canberra Inn was restored and again licensed as an inn. It stands on Mouat Street, Lyneham, opposite the ACT Hockey Centre.

On 21 March 1958 the Canberra Times reported that the original Fern Hill property, at the back of St Ninian's Church, was to be pulled down to make way for the development of Lyneham. ‘Fern Hill' was located along Mackennal Street in Lyneham.

The Times reported the original slab house, built by Peter Shumack 100 years before, was revealed intact when the homestead buildings were being demolished. The slab house had been protected and built over when F.S. Southwell took over the property in 1912. The original house revealed in 1958 was about 30ft by l0ft and consisted of two rooms. It was built entirely of red gum slabs, some measuring 20 inches in width.

The Times noted ‘Complete with shingle roof the building is to be re-erected by Mr. Craig Smith, proprietor of the Black Mountain tourist camp’. The Black Mountain tourist camp was situated at the end of David Street, above where Barry Drive now runs. The building was apparently never rebuilt.

St Ninian’s Church
The first church on the site of the present St Ninian's was built to plans drawn by George Kinlyside and opened in 1863. It was the first Presbyterian Church in the district. Ten years later the wooden structure was replaced by a stone building, opened by the Reverend J Gibson of Yass on 9 February 1873. St Ninian’s served the Ginninderra community as well as those living in the immediate vicinity, and was the venue for many tea meetings and concerts.

The church was enlarged in 1901 with a 12-foot western extension. It was little used from 1914 until the 1940s. In the early 1950s, the solitary church could be seen in the middle of the paddocks stretching away from Scrivener Street O’Connor. It came into full-time use again as St Ninian’s Presbyterian Church, largely as a result of the efforts of the Reverend Hector Harrison. It was re-dedicated on 15 February 1942 in the presence of the Prime Minister, John Curtin.

The building was again extended, and is now St Ninian's Uniting Church, on Brigalow Street, Lyneham. Two old elm trees had graced the grounds of the church for some 120 years, but had to be removed in 2000.


Oaks Estate was originally part of a land grant made to Robert Campbell in 1837. In 1887, part of that land was subdivided and 300 blocks were put up for auction by Dulhunty and Company.

The estate acted as a semi-rural industrial area for Queanbeyan, with the Hazelbrook wool works and later the Roller Flour mill located in the area. River Street was the major stock and transport route from the Duntroon, Majura, Gundaroo and Yass areas to Queanbeyan and the railway yards. When the mill was in operation, it generated considerable traffic with bullock wagons, bullock drays and wagons carting grain for the mill.

Houses slowly increased over time, numbering about 12 in 1913. The proclamation of the ACT border, in 1911, separated Queanbeyan from Oaks Estate, which became part of the ACT.

With the increase in construction activity in Canberra, Oaks Estate was populated by railway workers, labourers and tradesmen and their families. These workmen participated in the various projects of all stages of the development of Canberra from its beginning up to the 1950s and 60s. They lived in houses ranging from temporary ‘humpies’, built from any available materials, to the more permanent weatherboard, fibro and hand-made cement block constructions. Families were generally large and the houses tended to grow as the need arose, usually using the cheapest means possible.

The then Federal Capital Commission saw Oaks Estate as an area of substandard housing and not consistent with their development policies for Canberra. After an unsuccessful attempt to give Oaks Estate back to NSW, the FCC ignored the area. Oaks residents resorted to a petition to the King before they could get basic services such as water, electricity and road maintenance. Not surprisingly Oaks Estate created a strong community, with the Depression and the World Wars strengthening the support the residents gave to one another .

Oaks Estate existed as one of the few freehold anomalies left in the ACT until 1974, when the land was resumed and changed to the leasehold system. This change brought about the shift of many families away from Oaks Estate, and the demolition of most of the old houses.


Blundell’s Cottage see People: Ginn family

National Rose Gardens
On 12 September 1933 at 2.30pm, Minister for the Interior John Perkins planted the first rose bush in the National Rose Gardens. The development of the Gardens was Australia's first nation-wide gardening venture. It was planned to enhance the setting of the then Parliament House, and to give all states and interested people an involvement in the development of Canberra as a Garden City. It was also an opportunity to display Australian-grown roses in a favorable climate.


Narellan House
When Narellan House, Canberra, was demolished in May 1992, the last historic link with Narellan Military Camp near Sydney was severed. Narellan House had stood since 1947 in a tranquil setting in Canberra, just across from Glebe Park near Civic Centre.

If the walls of Narellan House could have spoken, what a story they would have told, not only as a government hostel that housed forty-nine guests and a staff of eight, but as part of a vast military camp near Camden during the days of the Second World War. Narellan Military Camp was built beside State Route No.69, the Northern Road, running from Narellan, NSW, to Richmond. It was established at the turn-off to Cobbitty, although that slumbering village would have been missed in the 1940s when the sign posts were removed for security reasons. The only reminders of the camp at the site today are a few partly hidden slabs of concrete.

At the end of the war the army huts of Narellan were a blot on good dairy grazing land. At a cost of £4203.18.6 ($8407.85) the Chifley Government brought the huts, asbestos and all, on five semi-trailers for storage in Canberra.

Narellan House thus became one of the Government Hostels in Canberra. At Narellan it was ladies in the north wing and gents in the south. It survived all of the other hostels, then became a residence for tertiary students before being re-developed as an apartment complex on Coranderrk Street, Reid.

St John the Baptist Church
Canberra’s oldest church is the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist in Constitution Avenue, Reid. The foundation stone was laid in 1841 and the church consecrated by Bishop Broughton on 12 March 1845, 68 years to the day before the foundation ceremony for the new national capital. One of the earliest graves in the churchyard of St John’s is that of Sarah Webb of Tidbinbilla, who died in childbirth in November 1845. The epitaph on the headstone is a quote from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews: ‘For here we have no continuing city but seek one to come’.


Cavanagh, Ernest

When Ernest Cavanagh of Young died on 6 July 1993, a 160-year link was severed with the pioneers of the Canberra and Ginninderra districts. Ernest Cavanagh’s great-grandfather, Thomas Cavanagh, had arrived in Canberra in 1832. The Cavanagh family settled at Mulligans Flat, in the Ginninderra district, where they held property known as 'Eastview'. After the NSW Government transferred the ‘Federal Capital Territory’ to the Commonwealth government in 1908, ‘Eastview’ was held under leasehold.

Well known as chairman of the ACT Bush Fire Council, Ernest Cavanagh was awarded a national medal for his 55 years of service. He was also active in the Queanbeyan Pastoral and Agricultural Association, and involved with the ACT Pastoral and Agricultural Association, the National Sheep Dog Trial Association, the ACT Technical College, the ACT Rural Lessees' Association and the Queanbeyan branch of the Graziers' Association. Ernest Cavanagh was also a familiar face among the Catholic congregation of St Francis Xavier's Church in Hall, where he was a lifelong member.

In 1968 Ernest Cavanagh was awarded an MBE for service to his community. Ernest Cavanagh Street in the Gungahlin Town Centre is named after him.

Farrer, William

Agricultural scientist William Farrer developed disease-resistant and drought-tolerant varieties of wheat. The results of his work are credited with providing the base for the modern Australian wheat industry. He conducted his experiments at his property Lambrigg, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in Tuggeranong.

Farrer was always examining his grains of wheat, matching them in form and colour. Individual wheat plants were staked and tied with distinguishing coloured ribbons and growth was closely watched each day. His rust-resistant wheat variety was named Federation wheat to mark the union of the Australian colonies in 1901.

Farrer was a dreamy person who always appeared to be deep in thought as he rode along, his head invariably held to one side, as he rode from Cuppacumbalong to his laboratory at Lambrigg each day.

He died at Lambrigg on 16 April 1906 and is buried on a hill overlooking his property and the Murrumbidgee River. His wife Nina is buried beside him. A national memorial was unveiled on the site on 16 January 1939.

Ginn family

'The old stone house' (now at Wendouree Drive, Parkes) was occupied by Mrs H. Oldfield in 1957 and stood 'near to Scotts Crossing bridge'. Old Mr Ginn was an Englishman and went to Duntroon to work for George Campbell. At the time, his two sons, Harry and Walter Ginn, were three years and one year nine months old respectively. Ginn disliked working at Duntroon and after only three months asked Campbell to lease him 'Blundell's' paddock. The Ginn family lived in a tent on the bank of the Molonglo river until Campbell built them the stone house now known as Blundell’s Cottage.

The Ginns made 'Blundells' into a beautiful farm. Although people used to say that wheat would not grow in Canberra, the 1934 comment was, 'But now, look at it!' When rabbits were thick, however, a 40 acre paddock yielded a total of only nine bags. Apparently it was Mr Ginn Snr who grew wheat there, for Harry and Walter had gone as young men to the Ginns' home which was situated on 'the Sydney road' (the Federal Highway), a little distance past the site of the (Starlight) drive-in theatre (on the opposite side of the road). The brothers worked very hard and produced a beautiful property from land which, when first taken up, was stony and very thickly timbered. In 1920, when Mr W Ginn came to live in Canberra, the farm was one of Canberra's landmarks, being well-kept and well farmed. The two old-fashioned homes built close together were always gleaming white with whitewash and everything was scrupulously neat.

For many years a speedway track called Mt Ginn’s, operated near the brothers’ farm. The saddle where the Federal Highway crosses Mt Majura is known as Ginn’s Gap.

Greenish, Robert Picton

A member of the ACT Advisory Council, elected on 12 September 1964 for a period of 3 years, Robert Greenish was a stockbroker. He appeared in the photograph of the new Council's first meeting on 19 October 1964, published in the Annual Report of the ACT Advisory Council 1965.

Kaye family

Joseph Kaye migrated to Australia in 1832 and in 1838 arrived in Queanbeyan, where he ran the local pub for several years. In 1844 the family moved to Springbank (now Springbank Island in the middle of Lake Burley Griffin) and took over the existing farm and buildings. This farm extended over a roughly rectangular area bounded by University Avenue in the north, Clunies Ross Street to the west, the old Canberra High School (now Canberra Institute of the Arts, Australian National University) to the east and, to the south, the Molonglo River which formed part of the boundary with Corkhills' farm. The area embraced the old Canberra race track, the original Federal golf course (at Acton before moving to Red Hill) and a large part of the present ANU. Canberra High School was built on part of the Kayes' farmland in 1938.

The family eventually found the Springbank home unpleasant to live in because of the snakes in the swamps of the nearby Molonglo River which became a menace during times of flood. In about 1855 they retreated to a house near the present Hyatt Hotel Canberra. This was the family home until 1924. Their long occupancy of this house is marked by Kaye Street, along the side of the Albert Hall.

After the Kayes left Springbank farm it was taken over by the Sullivan family. Their name is associated with the creek now running into Lake Burley Griffin from the ANU campus. Earlier this creek ran into the Molonglo River near the tip of the present Black Mountain peninsula. After their land was appropriated by the Commonwealth government in 1910, the Sullivan family left Springbank in 1913.

The Cox family then occupied the farm until 1924, when the Kaye family returned there. Gordon Kaye and two other brothers continued to work the farm after their father died in 1932, The property continued to be farmed until 1961, when preliminary work for the construction of Lake Burley Griffin obliged the family to sell off the farm assets. The Kaye family connections with Springbank were finally severed after 120 years.

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