It’s the Australia Day long weekend, and while there are some challenges celebrating all of our history and all of what is happening here at the moment, it’s still a good opportunity to appreciate this wonderful country. And so if I could spend today anywhere, I’m thinking our nation’s capital would be a good choice.
I think sometimes Canberra gets a bad rap … or it just gets forgotten. Perhaps it suffers the most from Australia’s cultural cringe. While most people wouldn’t dream of visiting England without London, or France without Paris, even many Australians don’t have much time for Canberra. Perhaps it is because our media insists on using the name of the city as a synonym for our federal government … and not usually in a positive light. Or because we think it’s not quite as ______ (insert adjective here) as Sydney or Melbourne or London or New York. But I’m a fan of Canberra and I think it is well worth a visit.
I’ve been to Canberra many, many times, including as a young child on holidays with the family and on a school trip in Grade 6. The year I was 18 I lived about an hour away and it was the nearest city and since moving to Adelaide it’s become a good stopover when driving to Sydney. Some good friends have lived there for the last few years so a longer visit is always nice too.
But preparing this blog made me realise that I don’t really have many good photos of Canberra! That’s partly because the first few times I visited I had a film camera! 🙂 But could it also be due to that old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt?” Have I not thought it important to take photos, or have I just always assumed I would be back so there is no urgency?
What do I love about Canberra?
I actually quite like its location – chosen as a compromise city, neither Sydney nor Melbourne, it’s in some ways in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve had some good times driving the Hume and Federal Highways. If you take the time to stop and look it can be quite pretty and peaceful.
It’s also one of the few areas of Australia where you might see snow in the winter.
I love visiting Parliament House and seeing what our politicians are up to. There’s usually something interesting going on somewhere if you look.
Old Parliament House has a great exhibit on our political history and also a nice café for lunch. I’m a bit of a legal geek, so a visit to the High Court is always on my list, to see our nation’s top judges in action.
Lake Burley Griffin is pretty and the Carillon on Aspen Island is a great spot. One of my Canberran friends planned her wedding there, although the afore-mentioned snow made for a last minute change of plans.
As a kid, Questacon was always a favourite stop with plenty of hands on science exhibits. We also loved just driving around the various embassies, trying to guess which was which.
As an adult, my favourite places include the War Memorial, National Gallery, National Library, Portrait Gallery and the new Museum – these all really are world-class treasures.
What have I learned from Canberra?
As I child I think Canberra was probably the place that started my interest in law and politics.
As an adult, particularly after visiting many other national capitals around the world, I think Canberra holds its own and Australians should be proud of our democracy. There is much about my country that I take for granted, including the opportunity I have to freely critique it (which I’m sure I will continue to do). And if I’m honest, Canberra is probably a place I have taken for granted too. Next time I visit I will make sure to take some better photos! There is plenty there to enjoy and also much to reflect on as we continue our national journey.