27 December 2021

2021 Year in Review: Living the Canberra lifestyle

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Canberrans know how to live a full, well-rounded lifestyle – even if we were shut indoors for a big chunk of 2021.

We made the most of it, despite the challenges, and that’s reflected in our top 10 stories – everything from what’s on TV to exploring our own backyard, and discovering the things our wonderfully talented neighbours were up to, whether it be working a blacksmith forge or building a magical cubbyhouse.

Here’s a look back at the ACT region’s unique lifestyle in a year like no other.

10. The ACT on TV: five shows set in the capital for the Canberran couch potato

Actors Amanda Bishop and Phil Lloyd in a scene from 'At Home with Julia'

The Lodge in Canberra was the setting for ABC’s At Home with Julia. Photo: ABC.

Ever-intriguing and riddled with political scandal, Canberra is fertile ground for entertaining television.

Samara Weaving from Home and Away was raised in Canberra. Our own Daniel O’Malley had his book, The Rook, turned into a US TV show. Even the character of Pam Beesly, from the US version of The Office, once lied that her best friend lived in Canberra.

From thrilling dramas to controversial sitcoms, Jimmy Bernasconi looked at five television shows in which Canberra takes centre stage.

9. Gamers build life-size model of Parliament House in virtual world of Minecraft

Scale model of Parliament House built in 'Minecraft'

The one-to-one model of Parliament House in video game Minecraft took two builders a month to complete. Image: Oceania Build Team – BuildTheEarth.

Parliament House went digital in 2021 – with a life-size model built by a team of dedicated gamers in the popular video game, Minecraft.

With details from the grassy hills and tiled forecourt to the towering flag pole, you might be forgiven for mistaking it for the real thing.

The 3D build took a team of two a month to create from the ground up.

8. King O’Malley: the man who made Canberra dry

King O'Malley sign

King O’Malley was a flamboyant character. Mural at King O’Malley’s Irish Pub, Canberra City. Photo: Marg Wade.

This year Canberrans were keen to explore the legend of ‘King O’Malley’ – best known these days for the Civic pub bearing his name.

The popular Irish pub would have infuriated him, as he was, in fact, a teetotaller.

So how does a man who doesn’t drink get a pub named after him?

7. Take a closer look to discover the hidden retail treasures of Yass

Margot Shannon

Merchant Campbell owner Margot Shannon. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

Who would have thought Yass would become the retail therapy destination for Canberrans fresh from lockdown?

It’s little wonder that talented local women such as Margot Shannon and Kate Lenehan created spaces that moved well beyond their brief as shops.

Their businesses are brimming with well-travelled homewares and gifts that each tell a story – and we’re all invited to take a look.

6. Sydney and Melbourne Buildings — a unique part of Canberra

Sydney and Melbourne buildings

The Sydney and Melbourne buildings viewed from London Circuit in 1952. Photo: National Archives of Australia.

Take a dive into the rich history of the iconic Sydney and Melbourne Buildings on London Circuit in Civic.

Designed in the 1920s, their colonnade design was influenced by the renaissance style of the Foundling Hospital in Florence, built in the 1420s.

They’re more than historical landmarks, but you might be surprised to learn which businesses have survived longest.

5. Young blacksmith Freddy Gaffey, 12, forges his own backyard business

Freddy Gaffey - Blacksmith.

Freddy Gaffey, 12, hard at work at his backyard forge. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Meet Freddy Gaffey – the 12-year-old running his own backyard blacksmith business.

He converted his cubby into a workshop and installed a homemade forge.

He’s so successful he employed his younger brother – and was thinking of taking on a mate as a second employee.

4. Alpacas adopted after foxes kill pet ducks at Belgian Embassy in Canberra

Michel Goffin with an alpaca

Meet Ambassador Michel Goffin and alpaca Boris (or is it Pablo?). Photo: Embassy of Belgium in Canberra.

We were all delighted this year by a pair of alpacas that were adopted by the new Belgian ambassador to live at the Yarralumla embassy.

The pair, named Pablo and Boris (cheekily named after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson), were brought in after the ambassador’s beloved pet ducks were killed by foxes.

Belgian Ambassador to Australia Michel Goffin has kept ducks since he was gifted a pair while stationed at the consulate in Laos in 2012.

3. Up, up and away: How a Canberra dad became a sensation replicating Disney’s Up house

Scott Fincher and his son

Scott Fincher built his son Leo a replica of the Up house at their Conder home. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Who can forget Leo Fincher’s magical cubby house, in Canberra’s south?

His father Scott built him a replica of the home in Disney’s Pixar animation Up.

Scott became a national sensation overnight as photos of the colourful cubby house in Conder surfaced in news articles and on social media.

2. From Captains Flat to the world, mum-of-nine Claire speaks out

Captains Flat mum Claire Hooker

Captains Flat mum of nine Claire Louise Hooker during the recording of her podcast called What Happens When. Photo: Supplied.

Captains Flat mum-of-nine Claire Hooker went from social media influencer to home-schooling her children, to taking on the world with a podcast.

It’s fair to say Claire loves a challenge.

She also loves her husband, their strong Catholic faith, her British and Irish heritage, and being a voice for parents everywhere.

1. Do you have a bluey in your Canberra backyard?

Blotched blue-tongue lizard.

This lovely blotched blue-tongue lizard was by the road in the snow gums in Namadgi National Park. Photo: Ian Fraser.

Was there a familiar bluey in your backyard this year? We all spent a lot of time at home, so you might have caught a glimpse.

Despite their scary appearance, blue-tongue lizards are laidback and loved in Canberra.

If it there ever were a vote on Australia’s favourite lizard, Ian Fraser is confident they would be a shoo-in here in the bush capital.

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