By Nicholas Kittel
Canberra often gets a bum rap for being a rather bland place to visit or call home, but take enough time to scratch the surface and you will find a bubbling and burgeoning society that is both contemporary and compatible.
One person who has studied Canberra’s transition from focal point to forgotten and back again is Monash University Professor Graeme Davison, from the University’s School of Historical Studies.
Prof. Davison said that when suggestions for a planned, national capital were discussed, in both the corridors of power and over the dinner table, the resounding opinion was that Canberra should be a city that was in many ways different from other Australian cities.
“When Canberra was first founded, what people most wanted of Canberra was that it should be a city that was in some ways quite unlike other Australian cities. It should be an ideal city, a model city, the most hygienic, the most beautifully planned, the most aesthetically appealing city in the country,” he said.
“That was a wonderful ideal but in some ways it set it apart from the rest of Australia and there was always a certain sense of distance between Canberra and the rest of the nation. There was a slight undertone of resentment and perhaps even a feeling that Canberra was a bit too well planned.”
The fact that Canberra is a planned city makes her the butt of many a joke, with detractors identifying Canberra as a place more renowned for its roundabouts than amazing art galleries, museums and public monuments.
But Professor Davison says that the city has grown beyond on these criticisms and has matured, developing a soul in the process and that Australia is beginning to realise this.
“I do think that Canberra has a soul and what’s more I think gradually that message has got to the rest of Australia.”
By Nicholas Kittel