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A look around Canberra – Narrabundah

By Alexandra Craig - 26 June 2015 15

narrabundah

Narrabundah, located in Canberra’s inner south, draws its name from the language of the Ngunnawal people; however there are several interpretations online as to what the exact meaning of Narrabundah is. One online contribution says it means ‘bird of prey’, while another says ‘little hawk’.

This suburb is very old, being gazetted in 1928. In the late 1940s around 360 prefabs, or temporary, homes were built in the area to accomodate the tradesmen and their families who had moved to the ACT to get things established after World War II. The twenty one streets where these homes stood is now thirteen streets (bounded by Matina Street and Kootara Crescent) after being consolidated in the 1978.

Narrabundah is also known for the mysterious tyre slasher. No one quite knows who is doing this, but car tyres have been slashed on and off for several decades. A 68-year-old man was arrested last year, but I don’t believe he was ever charged. A friend of mine used to live in Narrabundah, and whenever I visited his house I would always park as far into his driveaway as I could because someone told me the slasher only targets cars on the street.

Apparently this is not true, but I fortunately have never fallen victim. I’ve also heard that if you go to any mechanic or garage in the inner south with a slashed tyre the first words they’ll say to you is “You’re from Narrabundah.”

Another little tidbit about the Bundah is that there used to be erm, wild peacocks living in the area. They were presumed to have originated from a wildlife park in Symonston that closed down in the 1980s. In 2013 TAMS took action and captured some of the peacocks for transfer to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, however I am unsure about what happened to the remaining few peacocks the Zoo couldn’t take.

narrabundah shops

The Narrabundah shops are home to La Cantina restaurant which found itself mentioned in the national media every few months during the years of the Gillard Government. Every time there was leadership chit-chat there would always be ministers having dinner together at La Cantina which would send the journalists into a spin.

Narrabundah with its leafy streets, wild peacocks and scary knife wielding tyre haters is a pretty interesting part of Canberra I think. Property prices are sky high so I probably won’t be living there any time soon, but hopefully will one day, in a house with a lockable garage.

Quick stats
Streets are named after:  Indigenous names, explorers and pioneers
Federal Electorate: Canberra 
Federal MP: Gai Brodtmann 
Territory Electorate: Molonglo
Population: 5671
Population breakdown: 47.8 per cent male, 52.2 per cent female (this is a huge difference!)
Average children per family: 1.8
Crime: 579 incidents in 2014 (not including parking infringements)

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15 Responses to
A look around Canberra – Narrabundah
TaraP16 4:46 pm 03 Sep 16

I love Narrabundah too! Awesome about DAAS debuting there. Any idea which shop / restaurant it is now?

Old Narrabundah isn’t all flat – try exploring the streets near the end of Boolimba into Kootara. Warramoo, Tallara, for starters have some definite slopes. It’s only the areas immediately around the Sturt end of Matina and the Jerrabomberra end of Goyder that are truly close to being flat.

vintage123 5:18 pm 29 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

The peacocks can still be seen in ‘upper’ Narrabundah.

The suburb could actually be divided up into different areas. Up the hill it might as well be Red Hill; it’s a different character than that down the hill, and even the lower area could be further split up. Either side of Kootara Crescent for instance, which side it is of Stuart Avenue. It reminds me of the right and wrong side of the tracks expression, although in recent years the ‘wrong’ side of the track is more and more joining the ‘right’ side of the tracks.
I moved to Narrabundah about thirty years ago and lived most of that time in one of the fibro houses. (I bought it from a family of five; showing how the perception of what size is a family house has changed.) At the time it was the cheapest house for sale in all Canberra. Some people attempted to talk me out of buying in Narrabundah, because they wouldn’t dream of living there. They thought it would be better to buy a NEW house on the then edge of Canberra (Tuggeranong basically) than live in ‘that’ slum. I ignored them, as I wanted to be within cycling distance of work. They might have looked down on Narrabundah, but I looked down on living way out in the suburbs, and besides, my income was not high and the Narrabundah house was the cheapest. Obviously lots of people then felt about Narrabundah as my friends did; making (lower) Narrabundah very cheap then. I have never regretted not moving to the sticks, and I suspect my land value went up more. Yes, in the first years, two houses across the road were selling heroin, a thief lived in another house, an empty house was being used to store stolen goods and maybe the worse of all, was the paedophile down the road. Better I don’t say here what he was up to. I was never worried by any of them; in fact it was a friendly street. Even the paedophile liked to stop for a chat and was very friendly to everyone. I didn’t know all this about him initially of course. But I did as time went on, because the old Narrabundah also liked to gossip and I soon slotted in as a local. It’s a different place now.

My little house had three bedrooms, so I rented out two to help pay the mortgage, and with this extra income, frugal living, growing my own vegetables, etc and paying everything I could into my mortgage, I paid off my house in five years. I bought a new car; otherwise I would have paid the house off quicker. Remember 17% interest! Many of my tenants stayed for years; showing they liked living in Narrabundah too, and, grin, I couldn’t have been too bad a landlady.
In the housing slump when Howard was in I bought another Narrabundah house (this time the other side of Kootara Crescent) and rented it out. I saw potential in Narrabundah, and I was correct. If not for the slump, on my income I would not have been able to afford the second house. Then I worked to pay off that house and save to build the house I wanted, which I now have. The old wooden rental Narrabundah house was ‘recycled’. I had over thirty inquires wanting it. There’s a demand for these old wooden houses. The house went off on the back of a truck to Crookwell; a friend dismantled and took the old garage (hardwood frame), I cleaned the old bricks left from the chimney to reuse and off cut wood was kept to burn for heating in my new house stove. The clothesline and garden shed were reused. The old concrete walking paths were piled up to be reused. Only the old driveway, some concrete bricks and a few clay bricks under the front porch, which we couldn’t break up by hand, or by bobcat, were dumped. Many of the chimney bricks I cleaned appeared second hand already (so now third hand). The old driveway was made of a lot of recycled material also, I was told by the men who broke it up and removed it. Hard to break up apparently. The concrete had been under-layered with old bricks and slabs from a monecrete house. I doubt many modern builders these days would be so frugal as to reuse materials.

Narrabundah is increasing in price, but it is still sometimes possible to get a house for under half a million, if the modern ‘needs’ of ensuite, entertainment room, theatrette, etc, are less important than position, and the outer suburbs aren’t your thing. There are also apartments available. I imagine in time most of the old houses will go and be replaced with MacMansions, which is a bit of a shame, as the old vegetable gardens out the back and the gardens in the front, tended by the original inhabitants were a nice homely feature; much better than concrete out the back, and the bland so called low maintenance gardens out the front so popular now.

I do hope you declared that income from renting those two rooms to pay your mortgage down, and when you sold the place I do hope you returned 66% of the capital growth back to the treasurey. Renting two of three makes 66% of the home income assessed as taxable. But I am sure you followed the rules on your way to real estate heaven.

Maya123 11:42 am 29 Jun 15

Kim F said :

War also the tragic scene of the crash of the old warbird MIG back in the 80’s

I saw part of that. It flew really low above me, went over some trees and then a huge plume of smoke rose. Tragic.
It was on an election day.

Maya123 11:40 am 29 Jun 15

Masquara said :

The Doug Anthony Allstars made their debut at the Narrabundah Shops, in a cabaret cafe called “Cafe Boom Boom”, run by John & Olwyn Smout.

I remember that restaurant. A shame it closed. I only went once, but the night I was there a magician was performing. First class performance, and I think the magician went on to win some international prize.

Kim F 6:41 pm 28 Jun 15

War also the tragic scene of the crash of the old warbird MIG back in the 80’s

Masquara 4:04 pm 28 Jun 15

The Doug Anthony Allstars made their debut at the Narrabundah Shops, in a cabaret cafe called “Cafe Boom Boom”, run by John & Olwyn Smout.

rossau 9:50 pm 27 Jun 15

Danny’s Bakery at Narrabundah shops makes terrific ‘matchsticks’ but only on Tuesdays (? confirm) and they sell out quickly every week.
I reminisce, again, of Chez Moustache, the restaurant that ensured I returned to the suburb.

tea7 2:27 pm 26 Jun 15

aussielyn said :

Some people may relate to the late Rod Campbell article on my website: http://narrabundah.org.au/?page_id=143

The aerial shots of the prefabs on your website are fantastic!

Maya123 2:22 pm 26 Jun 15

The peacocks can still be seen in ‘upper’ Narrabundah.

The suburb could actually be divided up into different areas. Up the hill it might as well be Red Hill; it’s a different character than that down the hill, and even the lower area could be further split up. Either side of Kootara Crescent for instance, which side it is of Stuart Avenue. It reminds me of the right and wrong side of the tracks expression, although in recent years the ‘wrong’ side of the track is more and more joining the ‘right’ side of the tracks.
I moved to Narrabundah about thirty years ago and lived most of that time in one of the fibro houses. (I bought it from a family of five; showing how the perception of what size is a family house has changed.) At the time it was the cheapest house for sale in all Canberra. Some people attempted to talk me out of buying in Narrabundah, because they wouldn’t dream of living there. They thought it would be better to buy a NEW house on the then edge of Canberra (Tuggeranong basically) than live in ‘that’ slum. I ignored them, as I wanted to be within cycling distance of work. They might have looked down on Narrabundah, but I looked down on living way out in the suburbs, and besides, my income was not high and the Narrabundah house was the cheapest. Obviously lots of people then felt about Narrabundah as my friends did; making (lower) Narrabundah very cheap then. I have never regretted not moving to the sticks, and I suspect my land value went up more. Yes, in the first years, two houses across the road were selling heroin, a thief lived in another house, an empty house was being used to store stolen goods and maybe the worse of all, was the paedophile down the road. Better I don’t say here what he was up to. I was never worried by any of them; in fact it was a friendly street. Even the paedophile liked to stop for a chat and was very friendly to everyone. I didn’t know all this about him initially of course. But I did as time went on, because the old Narrabundah also liked to gossip and I soon slotted in as a local. It’s a different place now.

My little house had three bedrooms, so I rented out two to help pay the mortgage, and with this extra income, frugal living, growing my own vegetables, etc and paying everything I could into my mortgage, I paid off my house in five years. I bought a new car; otherwise I would have paid the house off quicker. Remember 17% interest! Many of my tenants stayed for years; showing they liked living in Narrabundah too, and, grin, I couldn’t have been too bad a landlady.
In the housing slump when Howard was in I bought another Narrabundah house (this time the other side of Kootara Crescent) and rented it out. I saw potential in Narrabundah, and I was correct. If not for the slump, on my income I would not have been able to afford the second house. Then I worked to pay off that house and save to build the house I wanted, which I now have. The old wooden rental Narrabundah house was ‘recycled’. I had over thirty inquires wanting it. There’s a demand for these old wooden houses. The house went off on the back of a truck to Crookwell; a friend dismantled and took the old garage (hardwood frame), I cleaned the old bricks left from the chimney to reuse and off cut wood was kept to burn for heating in my new house stove. The clothesline and garden shed were reused. The old concrete walking paths were piled up to be reused. Only the old driveway, some concrete bricks and a few clay bricks under the front porch, which we couldn’t break up by hand, or by bobcat, were dumped. Many of the chimney bricks I cleaned appeared second hand already (so now third hand). The old driveway was made of a lot of recycled material also, I was told by the men who broke it up and removed it. Hard to break up apparently. The concrete had been under-layered with old bricks and slabs from a monecrete house. I doubt many modern builders these days would be so frugal as to reuse materials.

Narrabundah is increasing in price, but it is still sometimes possible to get a house for under half a million, if the modern ‘needs’ of ensuite, entertainment room, theatrette, etc, are less important than position, and the outer suburbs aren’t your thing. There are also apartments available. I imagine in time most of the old houses will go and be replaced with MacMansions, which is a bit of a shame, as the old vegetable gardens out the back and the gardens in the front, tended by the original inhabitants were a nice homely feature; much better than concrete out the back, and the bland so called low maintenance gardens out the front so popular now.

aussielyn 1:59 pm 26 Jun 15

Thanks Alexandra

Some people may relate to the late Rod Campbell article on my website: http://narrabundah.org.au/?page_id=143

Please contact me if you have some old photos of streetscapes , I will acknowledge you as the owner

Narrabundah is gentrifying now and unfortunately some people ignore you when you say good-day

Affirmative Action M 1:28 pm 26 Jun 15

There are actually 2 Narrabundahs. The Narrabundah flatlands on one side of Sturt Ave & then the rest of the Bundah.

Best thing about living there in the 90’s was on Saturday mornings I had the choice of Silo, Danny’s, Bruno’s or O’Delly to go & get oven fresh bread for brekky.

antemite 1:10 pm 26 Jun 15

I am Bundah born and bred – 57 years ago. I saw some peacocks about a fortnight ago up near La Perouse – they were jumping fences into backyards.

Dame Canberra 1:00 pm 26 Jun 15

Danny’s Bakery at Narrabundah Shops makes the most amazing hot cross buns at Easter time.

Postalgeek 12:46 pm 26 Jun 15

Lived in Narrabundah for years and enjoyed it. My wife and I have enjoyed several meals at La Cantina. It’s easy and good food with a nice ambience. Enjoyed going for a jog around Narrabundah and running the tree-lined track alongside Canberra avenue.

I remember seeing someone housing down the brick walls of their house on Boolimba Cres during the 2003 fires.

tea7 12:07 pm 26 Jun 15

The sentiment expressed in the last sentence rings true for me (in spite of the grammatical issues).
I’ve lived (rented) in Narrabundah for a couple of years, and am very fond of the suburb – even though visitors have had their number plates stolen, I’ve had my car ransacked, and I scared off a would-be robber when I was at home with my newborn baby. Shortly after I moved in, I also had someone knock on the door at about midnight, looking for the previous resident who apparently owed him money…
Nevertheless, I love the flat, tree-lined streets, the diversity and unpretentiousness, decent public transport access, and the proximity to the real inner south, the lake, the big cultural institutions, good schools, Griffith shops, Red Hill for walking, Fyshwick markets and the Australia Post BC (random yes, but I do appreciate the convenience).
I think the shops have potential. The IGA is a little sad but serviceable. The sale of the fabulous Artisan broke my heart. I like Mint Rd cafe for coffee, but a weekend brunch spot would be a great addition.
The price of a very modest house in Narrabundah does my head in (and brings to mind the palatial mansion I could buy for the same amount in my regional hometown).

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