‘Australia’s underwhelming capital’

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?

Please login to post your comments, or connect with
38 Responses to ‘Australia’s underwhelming capital’
mr reason mr reason 2:05 pm 09 May 09

Who exactly would need to “do better”?

I’m sick of people holding Canberran’s responsible for the city somehow not meeting their expectations. I had an uncle visit here some time ago. He and my auntie went for a walk, presumably around the flats near the city. Their comment to me was “we saw some parts that need work” … as if I or others are somehow the responsible custodians of the city. We just live here!

Postalgeek Postalgeek 2:24 pm 09 May 09

I’d say an old Valiant station-wagon, with the original driver. Don’t like change, even if it may be of some benefit.

MrPC MrPC 2:50 pm 09 May 09

Canberra is a Lada Niva. It’s designed, sure, but it’s been designed badly. It’s not like much anything else of its vintage. It’s old, not especially shapely, and while it has its charms they are few and far between.

RuffnReady RuffnReady 3:30 pm 09 May 09

Commentary like that in the OP smacks of someone who spent 3 days in the city and knows nothing of its culture, like most people who haven’t lived here.

Canberra is an easy target, unfortunately.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 3:49 pm 09 May 09

Canberra’s like a soft-roader SUV. It looks the part, but is ultimately heavy, slow, and can’t do what the styling suggests.

monomania monomania 5:02 pm 09 May 09

In this month’s Open Road the Skoda Superb is described as ‘a genuine class act’

Clown Killer Clown Killer 5:03 pm 09 May 09


deezagood deezagood 5:34 pm 09 May 09

My Canadian friends just left after being here for a week. They toured the visitor hot-spots (galleries, museums, memorial etc.. ) by renting a bike, we hiked up around Tidbinbilla (where we saw wombat, emus, wallabies and a real live platypus!), we took photos from Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain, had brekky in Kingston, dinner in Manuka, had beer and trivia at the Durham and they oohed and ahhed each morning over the thousands of kangaroos that live in the Mcarthur horse paddocks. They also came to school for the cross country, met some of our friends and just hung out with us in the suburbs. Conclusion; they think Canberra is one of the most beautiful, accessable places they have ever visited (and they have literally been all over the world) and can’t believe how under-rated it is as a tourist destination. They have decided to come back through on their way back to Sydney. So there.

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 5:47 pm 09 May 09

Sounds like an awesome week Deezagood and still sooooo much more anyone could do, so i reckon we’re accomodating, just got to think outside of the square.

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 5:49 pm 09 May 09

Helps to have a friend here too sometimes and seeing I’m doing another stupid double post I think I shall fix accommodating*

Thumper Thumper 6:07 pm 09 May 09

I’m with deeza, love this place…

trevar trevar 6:55 pm 09 May 09

I’m with deeza, but I think it’s better to live in than to visit. Especially if you’re a philistine and don’t like galleries, museums and water features that are purely cosmetic in nature.

Nonetheless, I really can’t agree with the Skoda comparison. Far too modern. We’re more like an old 70s muscle car that’s been converted to LPG and has comfy woolen seat covers and an MP3 player.

Primal Primal 8:26 pm 09 May 09

Canberra could do a lot better…but it would lose some of its other charms as a result.

old canberran old canberran 8:53 pm 09 May 09

What a lot of these blow-in critics tend to overlook is that Canberra is a very young city which has been sculptured from an empty limestone plain. It does not have the history and age of Sydney or Melbourne and it has yet to develop its own character. It is also the National Capital which makes it unique in this country. This means the emphasis is on the National Capital aspects of the city first and the urban infrastructure second.
If Mr Bryant thinks Canberra can do better then he should be told that it’s been under the control of amateur politicians for the past 21 years and perhaps he could use his journalistic influence to have this situation rectified.

vg vg 10:37 pm 09 May 09

A Pom criticising a city for being able to do better?

Deary me, pot this is kettle…………over

shiny flu shiny flu 10:41 pm 09 May 09

I don’t think Canberra is worth being compared to other large international cities. Just as Old Canberran said, everything about our city is young but more importantly extremely unique.

I grew up in Canberra and there’s one thing here most other cities don’t have. I’ve lived in a few spots around the world, visited more, made frequent weekend trips to Sydney etc. What we have is unparalleled access to open green/wooded spaces as Deezagood explained. Sure, if you’re on the perpetual search for the perfect cafe latte, catching trams, buying expensive pieces of cloth is your thing the bush wont do much for you. But if you get out of suburbia, a maximum whopping 30min drive, there’s so much to see and do here. If you go even further (Bungonia, Alpes, Budawangs etc.) there’s even more spectacular things to discover.

I started bushwalking with my school. Where else can you be a 30-60min drive away from home, but in the middle of nowhere. As teens, go out on a trip with a few mates . I still bushwalk today. It also got me into mountain biking and consequently just riding on road for fun/commuting. This city is unique in the sense that it’s not a metropolis- nor was it ever designed to be a sky-scraper city.

Take a shot of the Brindabella’s. That’s Canberra.

ant ant 10:43 pm 09 May 09

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.

damnintellectuals damnintellectuals 3:37 am 10 May 09

Canberra is an ACTION bus.

Trunking symbols Trunking symbols 9:20 am 10 May 09

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

Feathergirl Feathergirl 10:01 am 10 May 09

I have to agree Trunking symbols, I do like to visit Sydney for a weekend, but any longer and I start to itch for my home among the hills. I think Canberra is like a Suburu Liberty, good for the whole family, comfortable on road with a good ride off the beaten track too, plenty of space but not a mega flashy 4 wheel drive.

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Region Group Pty Ltd

Search across the site