Today would be a good day to be in Canberra

Parliament House
Parliament House

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.

View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie
View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie

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.

Heading out onto the Hume Hwy
Heading out onto the Hume Hwy

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.

The view from Parliament House
The view from Parliament House

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?

This is the kind of photo I used my film on when I was in Grade 6 - lining up to enter the Mint
This is the kind of photo I used my film on when I was in Grade 6 – our class lining up to enter the Royal Australian Mint
What do I love about Canberra?
Black Mountain Tower
Black Mountain Tower

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.

Somewhere on the road to Gundagai
Somewhere on the road to Gundagai 

It’s also one of the few areas of Australia where you might see snow in the winter.

Snow between Canberra and Goulburn
Snow between Canberra and Goulburn

I love visiting Parliament House and seeing what our politicians are up to. There’s usually something interesting going on somewhere if you look.

The Australian Girls Choir performing in the Great Hall
The Australian Girls Choir performing in the Great Hall

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.

Old Parliament House
Old Parliament House

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.

The 55 bell-Carillon on Aspen Island
The 55 bell-Carillon on Aspen Island

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.

Corrugated iron cows on the NZ embassy lawn
Corrugated iron cows on the NZ embassy lawn

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.

Looking out from the tomb of the unknown soldier, Australian War Memorial
Looking out from the tomb of the unknown soldier, Australian War Memorial
What have I learned from Canberra?

As I child I think Canberra was probably the place that started my interest in law and politics.

The Prime Minister is currently being updated … (Taken the day after Julia Gillard's ascent to the office)
The Prime Minister is currently being updated … (Taken the day after Julia Gillard’s ascent to the office)

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.

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2 thoughts on “Today would be a good day to be in Canberra

  1. I’ve been there, yes as for tourist or traveler i can say that Canberra is somehow been skipped from itinerary, and i thanked to my friend who works for our government who insisted to visit Canberra during our trip to Sydney about a year ago. It was a great trip for us, i love the view along the way from Sydney to Canberra, especially Lake George George and the farm. those were so amazing and tranquil. I had nothing to be regretted for our one day trip to Canberra :).
    In my another blog (In Indonesia language), i even promote people to make stop at Canberra when they visit Sydney or Melbourne. It’s worth to visit.

    oh ya, about the picture, sometimes when i enjoy the view i forget to take the picture 🙂

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  2. Now I am compelled to comment really! Canberra is a lovely city full of national monuments, museums and parliament houses! I love living here but every so often feel a pull to find a busy city street or crowded shopping market or great coffee shops or nightlife?! Never entirely happy are we? You also neglected to mention the amazing amount of free activities available – fireworks last night! Free concert night before (albeit with perhaps Bgrade celebrities!) Free craft and invention making at most national monuments during school holidays makes for fun for everyone (mostly!) We can’t wait to see you back here one day soon…

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