20 December 2022

2022 Year in Review: Stories from our community

| Kim Treasure
Start the conversation

The best of the Canberra community shone through in so many wonderful stories during another tough year.

We said goodbye to old friends, solved a few mysteries and remembered our late Queen in her 70th year on the throne.

Take a look back at the stories that gave us a smile (and maybe a tear or two) in 2022 – and see if you can guess what was our most popular read.

14. Queen steps into Aussie flies, Ikebana and a ‘city without a soul’
by Marg Wade

Pictured here the Queen is entering Provisional Parliament House for the opening of the third session of the 20th Commonwealth Parliament. Note the formality of the occasion. This image is part of the exhibition, 'Happy and Glorious' documenting the Queen's visit to Canberra, at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Prime Minister Robert Menzies escorts Queen Elizabeth into Provisional Parliament House in 1954 to open the third session of the 20th Commonwealth Parliament. Photo: ‘Happy and Glorious’ exhibition.

After 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth had seen, well, just about everything. And that included an evolving Canberra.

February marked the anniversary of the first visit of a reigning monarch to our shores in 1954. The then recently-crowned Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip, spent two months travelling Australia, covering 40,000 kilometres and visiting every state and regional area.

She attended 26 banquets, made 141 speeches, conducted 999 investitures, and engaged in about 13,213 handshakes. And they visited Canberra for five days.

13. Vale Garry Sykes, Canberra’s heart and soul for so many years
by Tim Gavel

Garry Sykes with Sia Soliola. Photo: Raiders website.

Garry Sykes poses with Sia Soliola. Photo: Raiders website.

The man who made Canberra Milk and sport a winning combination in the ACT, Garry Sykes, died in Thailand at the age of 72.

Garry was a loveable rogue, generous as they come, loyal to a fault, and the life of the party.

That roguish streak usually came to the fore at Raiders’ presentation nights, when his lime green suit would come out of the closet.

12. Breast cancer battle forces SeeToh family to sell Queanbeyan Chinese takeaway after 44 years
by James Coleman

The SeeToh family (Vanessa SeeToh, far right) has run the Canton Chinese Restaurant in Queanbeyan for 44 years. Photo: Canton Chinese Restaurant.

The SeeToh family ran the same Chinese takeaway in Queanbeyan for 44 years, long enough to watch generations of locals pass through for birthdays, anniversaries, or just home dinners.

But a shock diagnosis of stage two breast cancer prompted Vanessa SeeToh to finally hang up the apron, along with her husband, to spend more time with family.

“It is with a heavy heart and great consideration that we are announcing the end of an era,” she said.

11. Here’s cheers to Grong Grong and the locals who bought their own pub
by Sally Hopman

Six people sitting in the pub.

The Grong Grong six who made the reopening of the local pub a reality – by buying it themselves. From left, AJ Gillespie, Adam Ferguson, Gemma Purcell, Reiner Meier, Cain Gawne and Adam Conway. Photo: Supplied.

Could it be more Australian? When the only pub in Grong Grong faced closure, the locals did a serious whip around and bought it themselves!

The Grong Grong hotel, built in 1875, was doing a roaring trade on Australia Day, thanks to a small band of locals who, rather than let their local get sold to outside interests or, God forbid, close its doors forever, bought it themselves.

The locals aimed to raise $500,000 to keep the pub in local hands, with a minimum shareholding of $5000 each. They were overwhelmed with the result – 169 shareholders and $1 million.

10. Queanbeyan family secures permanent residency after seven years of setbacks
by Lottie Twyford

Queanbeyan-based Jestingor family - Joey, Yzabella, Patricia, Rezy and Gabriel

The Queanbeyan-based Jestingor family: Joey, Yzabella, Patricia, Rezy and Gabriel have now received permanent residency after a six-year battle. Photo: Rolando Condat.

This year Queanbeyan father and husband Joey Jestingor got the call he, his family and 25,000 supporters had long been waiting for – they had been granted permanent residency.

“Words are not enough to explain how happy we are. Ecstatic. This has been an uphill climb for more than six years now,” Joey Jestingor said, describing his reaction to finding out that he and his family – wife Rezy and children Yzabella, Gabriel and Patricia – had secured permanent residency thanks to a ministerial intervention after years of denied applications, setbacks and roadblocks.

Mr Jestingor and his family, who are originally from the Philippines, have lived in Queanbeyan since 2014.

9. The chef changing the way aged care residents dine
by Dione David

Goodwin general manager for catering and hospitality Sandeep Vaid in the kitchen

Goodwin general manager for catering and hospitality Sandeep Vaid is changing perceptions of aged care catering. Photo: Goodwin.

From his early training in Switzerland to a six-week London internship under Gordon Ramsay and his role as Parliament House executive sous chef, chef Sandeep Vaid’s credentials are impressive.

He has catered for dignitaries from Australian prime ministers to the king and queen of Spain and the Sultan of Brunei.

Now, it’s the residents of Goodwin aged care facilities who are benefitting from his skill and passion – and he has never been more honoured.

“Food is an important part of life and that doesn’t change in aged care,” he said.

8. Former Canberran set to hit career height as Australia’s first female astronaut
by Sally Hopman


Former Canberran Meganne Christian has been selected as one of 17 for the European Space Agency’s 2022 Astronaut program – out of 22,500 candidates from across the world. Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg.

When Meganne Christian was singing with the Brindabella Chorus in Canberra in 2014, life was good.

She had just finished her PhD in industrial chemistry, specifically research into hydrogen storage, and had secured a job in Italy working for that country’s National Research Council.

She had the world at her feet. But no one knew what heights the young scientist was still to reach. At 35, the former Canberran has become Australia’s first female astronaut.

7. Tommy, beloved homeless Dickson man, highlights the reality of life on the street
by James Coleman


Flowers for Tommy, the homeless Dickson man. Photo: David Murtagh.

Tommy has been a mainstay around Woolworths Dickson for years, so when he mysteriously disappeared, it was no surprise regular shopgoers were concerned.

Soon flowers and gifts appeared in response to rumours that Tommy had died, quickly prompting a correction on signs around his bed that he is instead in hospital.

The outpouring of emotion drew attention to how many of the homeless in the ACT are more than strangers with worn clothes and a well-patted dog. They have grown to become beloved personalities in their area.

6. Why the straight line? Explaining the ACT’s northern border ‘anomaly’
by James Coleman

Old map

A 1950s map of the ACT compiled and drawn under the supervision of L Edwards, Chief Draftsman, Survey Branch, Engineers Department. Photo: ANU.

Trace the ACT’s border on a map and it will be squiggle and more squiggle, at least until you get close to the top, when the line suddenly becomes straight. But have you ever wondered why?

5. The Queen, the High Court and the missing tree(s): a right royal mystery
by Sally Hopman

Tree removal space

This is where the Queen planted the original tree in the forecourt of the High Court of Australia. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s one of those stories we couldn’t make up if we tried: it involves royalty, trees, the dead of night, really dumb thieves and the highest court in the land.

Monday, 26 May, 1980, was a big day for Canberra. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were in town to officially open Australia’s new $49 million High Court building on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin.

Her Majesty would plant a tree, the official agenda reported, with more than 1200 invited guests, including 80 judges from other countries, attending the special event.

Here’s what happened next.

4. Canberra remembers a local legend: Greg Cusack
by Sally Hopman

Man cutting birthday cake

Greg Cusack celebrates his 90th birthday on April 30, 2020. Photo: Cusack family.

Ever since the first Cusack arrived in Australia, they have made their mark.

The first was Timothy Cusack, whose punishment for reportedly refusing to sign an oath in the Mother Country, was a life sentence in Australia, with the young man arriving here on 30 January, 1828. By 1853, he sponsored his nephews, Michael and Timothy – at four pounds each for passage – to also come out to the colonies.

This year, the vast Cusack clan came together in Canberra to celebrate the life of one of its best, Gregory Cusack, who played a crucial role in the start of a dynasty, a connection that bonded Yass to Canberra, that continues to this day.

3. Who’s flashing the 7:28 am at Bungendore – train, hail or shine?
by Sally Hopman

Driver aboard train

Train driver James Rumble is keen to find out who is “flashing” him every morning at Bungendore. Photo: Ben Murch.

Everyone loves trains, but now it seems their drivers are on track to reach similar heights in the popularity stakes.

Every day since November last year, when NSW train driver James Rumble and a colleague took over the Canberra-Goulburn-Sydney run, someone at the Majara Street, Bungendore crossing, between 7:28 am and 7:30 am, flashes them.

No, not that flashing. We’re talking car lights here – and there’s usually a wave from the car’s passenger. It’s always in the same vehicle, the sort of car you wouldn’t miss in a hurry – an early model purple Toyota Corolla.

2. Childhood memories of Pooh’s Corner inspire Canberra filmmaker
by Zoe Cartwright

Pooh Bear's Corner.

Young and old alike watch out for Pooh Bear’s Corner on the Clyde Mountain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Not-so-fond memories of the carsickness that accompanied holiday trips to the coast have inspired Canberra filmmaker Matthew J Thompson’s newest documentary.

As a child, Matthew regularly made the trip from Canberra to Ulladulla with his family and there was one high point on the nauseous trip over the Clyde Mountain – Pooh Bear’s Corner.

“I’d always get really car sick so I found seeing Pooh’s Corner really comforting,” he said.

1. This hidden concrete ‘pool’ is all that’s left of Canberra’s WWI ‘concentration’ camp
by James Coleman

Molonglo Internment Camp

The water reservoir for the Molonglo Internment Camp, behind BCF and Anytime Fitness in Fyshwick. Photo: James Coleman.

Tucked away in the pine trees off Newcastle Street in Fyshwick is what appears to be an abandoned swimming pool. The reality is much more shocking – it’s an old water reservoir for a World-War-I-era concentration camp that was spread out where the ACT’s industrial suburb lies today.

The preferred name is “Molonglo Internment Camp” but stamp collectors will tell you that the on-site post office marked letters with an ink stamp that actually read “Molonglo Concentration Camp”. The soldiers in charge were known as the “Molonglo Concentration Camp Guard”.

Canberra historian Mark Butz says the name might send a shiver down the spine, but all it referred to was “enemy aliens concentrated in one place”.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.