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‘Australia’s underwhelming capital’

By RiotFrog 9 May 2009 38

I’ve found this interesting piece from the BBC’s Nick Bryant on our beloved(?) city.

    I should state from the outset that I don’t happen to agree with the hoary old joke that the best view of the city comes in the rear-view mirror as you head back to Sydney or Melbourne. Parts of it are stunningly beautiful.

    But on a national scorecard that is replete with green and gold stars, you are left with the feeling that Canberra merits only a “could do better”.

    Put another way, if cities were cars then Melbourne would probably be an Audi (a European feel, well designed and well engineered) and Sydney would probably be a 1970s MG convertible (a bit flash, fabulous in the summer, but prone to occasional breakdowns)

    Canberra has something of the Skoda about it, albeit with some pretty fancy add-ons, like the new Parliament House which celebrates its 21st birthday this very week.

I thought this was a reasonably balanced article, but what do people think? Could (or should) Canberra “do better” ?

What’s Your opinion?


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‘Australia’s underwhelming capital’
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staria 12:45 pm 14 May 09

I agree with pretty much all the comments here – Canberra is a wonderful place to live, but yeah I can understand from a touristy point of view we don’t have a one-stop-shop like Sydney does in Darling Harbour (haven’t been to Melbourne enough to comment). I have to say though, that while I enjoy having a weekend in Darling Harbour (staying right in the Harbour so I don’t have to drive anywhere once I’ve arrived), I don’t see that there’s overly much to do there apart from the usuals PH museum, IMAX, markets (totally over them btw), and wandering around the harbour itself watching the occasional performer. Am I missing something? The cafe’s and restaurants are pretty decent, but can be pricey for what you get. Canberra, on the other hand, you have to sometimes know where to go but we have some absolute gems here (War Memorial, gallery etc), and you have easy parking and it doesn’t take you forever to get from a to b.

Agree it would be great to get the town centres done up a bit (particularly Civic) they’ve all gone massively down hill and a lot could be done to brighten them up and make them feel more welcoming.

McDoctor 3:39 pm 11 May 09

I think it’s true that you have to be a local to know where to go – it’s because most outsiders expect that Civic is where we congregate, and a lot of pubs, cafes and hang outs have closed their doors in the CBD over the last few years….. On that note, it will be nice to have Civic renovated and more welcoming some time in the future…. and in the meantime, we’ll be entertaining ourselves at all the hidden gems located throughout Canberra!!

Vonbare 10:51 am 11 May 09

I’ve often thought that we are in a unique position here in Canberra to become what I would like to name ‘Canbradam’: kind of an Amsterdam of the southern hemisphere.

We have a large cycling population, porn, pot, prostitution. We are a fairly open minded bunch of people. We have waterways, and are getting more outdoor cafes. I can just see the Kingston foreshore being alive with the infamous coffee shops and New York Pizza cafes. And chips with mayonaise.

It could just be the niche we are looking for to make this place a must see for the under 50’s who visit Australia.

niftydog 9:42 am 11 May 09

Sounds to me like Nick Bryant hardly got out of the Parliamentary Triangle! And why do they always drag up Burley Griffin and all his contemporaries? Quotes from 1909, comments about Post-war development, suburb naming (oohohohhh), pointless information about Parliament…

What a load of bullshit.

Melbourne is the burlesque performer who is a little bit ugly, but has a nice body which is tastefully concealed behind some fancy feathers.

Sydney is a slightly overweight, slightly too-old lady with no clothes on, legs spread wide yelling “come and get it, boys” in a grating, nasally voice.

Canberra is the immaculately dressed young lady, and even though the suit she’s wearing reveals almost nothing, when you see her smiling and laughing with her friends at the cafe at lunch time she makes you weak at the knees.

rambler 9:37 pm 10 May 09

Who is Bryant trying to kid with his fanciful claim that Canberra’s post-war expansion was left to the British town planner, Sir William Holford. The bloke apparently wrote one report on Canberra’s future development at the invitation of Menzies in 1957. The only recommendation of note was that he believed the lake should be built as originally proposed by Griffin.

deezagood 8:15 pm 10 May 09

aronde said :

Moved here from Brisbane a few years ago and have not looked back! Yes a great place for the kids with lots of options for entertainment all within a nice easy drive / cycle. When we go back to Brisbane to visit the family the traffic alone is enough to make me glad we moved. It sometimes take me longer to get out of Brisbane Airport and through that damned roundabout then it does to take the kids to Tidbinbilla!

I couldn’t agree more! Brisbane was great when I was a kid, but boy have they destroyed the place with their lack of infrastructure planning. The whole city and suburbs are like a giant carpark; the traffic doesn’t move at all – it took me and hour and a half to drive 30 kilometers one day – I just couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t stand living there now – although I love the weather and friendly people.

Whatsup 7:09 pm 10 May 09

Thumper said :

I went to the AWM today and seriously, the view from there down Anzac parade across lake, taking in OPH and onto New Parliament House is incredible, just stunning…

I was at the AWM today also… not stalking you but I concur the view is excellent.

vg 7:01 pm 10 May 09

farnarkler said :

Canberra is a late 90’s beige Toyota Camry. Bland and with an asthmatic engine but most of it works and it’ll get you from a to b.

Pommy bastard, Canberra is pretty much unknown in the UK. I had a friend whose young niece gave Canberra as the answer to ‘what is the capital city of Australia’ in a school quiz. Her teacher said no, Sydney is the capital.

You’d be surprised how many people think New York is the capital of the US or Auckland is NZ’s one.

I honestly couldn’t give a rats arse what other people think of Canberra. Its the people that live here that matters and you couldn’t get me out of here with a crowbar. Born and bred Canberra boy who has lived around the nation and the world. The quality of life in this town leaves what else I’ve seen for dead. Sure plenty of other places have more of various things that Canberra doesn’t, but that’s why I visit them and leave when I’ve had my fill of those ‘things’.

Sydney is great to get on the gas, go and watch the footy or visit mates for a few days. A few days is enough. Need convincing. Sit outside a cafe on any of the main streets of Sydney CBD from 0830-0900 on a Monday morning. You discover what ‘rat race’ means

Thumper 6:40 pm 10 May 09

I went to the AWM today and seriously, the view from there down Anzac parade across lake, taking in OPH and onto New Parliament House is incredible, just stunning…

sexynotsmart 6:30 pm 10 May 09

Fave quote:

Fabulously, prime ministers, like Barton and Deakin, have suburbs named after them. Others, presumably, only rise to the level of cul-de-sac.

I like the fact that a Brit figured out Canberra isn’t on the coast. IMHO that explains why our national capital has such a small population. In population terms, the ACT Legislative Assembly is right up there with Northumberland Shire Council. (Nick, feel free to use that line in your next piece.)

el 5:19 pm 10 May 09

Diff’rent stokes for different folks, I guess.

aronde 4:54 pm 10 May 09

Moved here from Brisbane a few years ago and have not looked back! Yes a great place for the kids with lots of options for entertainment all within a nice easy drive / cycle. When we go back to Brisbane to visit the family the traffic alone is enough to make me glad we moved. It sometimes take me longer to get out of Brisbane Airport and through that damned roundabout then it does to take the kids to Tidbinbilla!

Hells_Bells74 4:11 pm 10 May 09

Agreed deezagood, don’t think you could beat it for a city to raise small kids.

deezagood 4:02 pm 10 May 09

ant said :

Maybe tourists miss the good stuff, while people who are shown around by a friend “get” Canberra. It’s not like bloody Sydney, it has no main street or laid-on entertainment. We did an Ikea run to Sydney today and fair dinkum, you’d have to be mad to live there. What a miserable existence! It’s just way too big, way too full.

I can’t wait for Canberra to get an Ikea though!

deezagood 3:50 pm 10 May 09

I’m a Melbourne girl (born in Brisbane, but lived in Melbourne for more than half of my life), but as a mother with smallish kids, I wouldn’t want to live in any other major Australian city. Honestly; name another capital city where if your kids have a school concert during the day you can whip away from work, go to the concert, go back to work (and find a parking spot) within a one hour timeframe? In Melbourne I worked in the city and lived about 15 kms out of the city, but it took a good 40 minutes to commute either way (by car or rail) – what a waste of precious time that could be spent with your kids. This city is so livable and convenient, I really can’t imagine anybody not appreciating the lifestyle here – especially if you have smallish kids. And Canberra is really pretty. I do miss having a close beach, but the proximity of the snowfields more than makes up for that and we have taken up waterskiing (lake life) to replace the beach life that we had in Melbourne. I absolutely love living here.

farnarkler 3:20 pm 10 May 09

Canberra is a late 90’s beige Toyota Camry. Bland and with an asthmatic engine but most of it works and it’ll get you from a to b.

Pommy bastard, Canberra is pretty much unknown in the UK. I had a friend whose young niece gave Canberra as the answer to ‘what is the capital city of Australia’ in a school quiz. Her teacher said no, Sydney is the capital.

Hells_Bells74 11:50 am 10 May 09

Trunking symbols said :

Sydney – a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

Used to hear that a lot until getting to know a lot of Sydneysiders and they love it there and most I know wouldn’t leave in any hurry.

They say the same thing about here anyhow.

Pommy bastard 10:08 am 10 May 09

I’ve had more than a dozen friends from the UK come to stay with me since I’ve been living here. Without fail, they have gone away stating that Canberra is a little known gem of Australia, and should be promoted better.

I’ll be perfectly honest here, and admit that, before my courting days, I had no idea what or where Canberra was. I considered myself a worldly and well travelled Pom, and I know that I would not be alone in any group of well educated people from the UK in this lack of knowledge.

Thing is, do we want it promoted better? I’m happy to have all the advantages of living in what I consider one of the world great little cities, without having to share it with millions of grockles and emmets.

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