The suburb of Barton in Canberra’s inner south has one of the smallest suburb populations, if not the smallest, in Canberra. However, according to ABS data, Barton was once the most socio-economic advantaged suburb in Australia. Much of this can be put down to the fact that the majority of residents are likely to be highly-paid public servants, politicians, and political staffers.
The suburb is named after Australia’s first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton.
While I described Barton as being in the inner south, it’s actually in the inner north as well – but mostly in the south. A small part of Barton is directly across the lake and takes in Clare Holland House and the Boathouse by the Lake (I’ve had arguments with cab drivers about how to get to the Boathouse: ‘But Barton is on this side of the lake,’ ‘Yes, kind of. But you need to go to the other side.’ ‘But that is not Barton.’ You get the idea.) The remainder of Barton is a stones throw away from Parliament House, sharing it’s borders with Parkes, Forrest and Kingston.
For ages I thought there was absolutely nothing to do in Barton. Turns out Barton can be a hive of interesting activity from time to time. It’s home to a range of fantastic restaurants like The Ottoman (one of my favourites and consistently in the Top 10 Best Canberra Restaurants), Malamay, the aforementioned Boathouse, Lilotang, and the list goes on.
The newly refurbished Hotel Kurrajong is in Barton, the Canberra home of former Prime Minister Ben Chifley. Some believe that it’s still Ben Chifley’s home and that his ghost hangs out in his old room. So, naturally, staying in that room is on my Canberra bucket list.
The Realm Precinct which has several of the restaurants I mentioned, plus cool cafe Maple + Clove, is also home to the newly established Night Markets which take place every few months. The December Hustle & Scout market is also set to take place at the newly constructed Little National Hotel. If politics and current affairs is your thing, the National Press Club is here too.
Part of Telopea Park is included within Barton’s perimeter. By day, it’s a beautiful park with lots of green space to run around, tall trees, and a playground for the kids and the big kids (+10 points for having great swings).
By night, and even in the early hours of the morning, Telopea Park looks like something out of a horror film. It’s damn creepy. It’s very close to the Russian Embassy and it’s said that during the Cold War years representatives of the Embassy would leave notes for MPs and journalists they were secretly working with hidden in trees and bushes. All under the watchful eyes of ASIO who also had a nearby stakeout location opposite the Embassy (the top window of the funeral parlour on Canberra Avenue).
Barton looks a bit boring at a glance, but upon taking a closer look it’s got a whole lot more than what most give it credit for.
Suburb theme: Governors
Federal electorate: Canberra
Federal MP: Gai Brodtmann
Territory Electorate: Molonglo
Population breakdown: 49.5 per cent male, 50.5 per cent female
Average children per family: 1.6
Crime: 97 incidents in 2014 (excluding traffic infringements)