I’m a Canberran. I’m relatively new to Canberra, but in the short time I’ve been here I’ve fallen in love with it. Like most Sydneysiders, I always thought Canberra was dull, bland, boring, insipid.
But the real Canberra is wonderful! In a few short years we have enjoyed the wonderful cultural events that Canberra offers, and availed ourselves of many of the amazing outdoor events, venues and facilities, as well. We’ve visited so many National thises and Capital thats, I’ve lost track.
All of these things have been, for the most part, free or close to. They’ve also been easy to get to. Perhaps a bus ride or a short drive. Even the drive isn’t stressful. ACT drivers are courteous and sensible, as a rule.
We’ve spent a lot of time on the fabulous network of cycling/ running tracks around town and have massively increased our fitness. So I am an out-an-out Canberra convert. I love it.
But there is one part of Canberra that doesn’t stack up at all. Drinking.
Now, this is a serious issue. This is our national capital we’re talking about. Drinking is a major part of Australian culture! We have the War Memorial to recognise our warrior culture. We have the National museum to celebrate our artistic heritage. There’s the National museum to commemorate our cultural diversity. The National Botanic Gardens preserves our flora and the network of parks and reserves allows our fauna to flourish. But who’s looking after the drinking?
Now I’m not suggesting we need a National Alcohol Museum, but a decentralised network of venues that will allow people to engage in this most Australian of pastimes in their local area. These facilities are well established in other Australian cities. In Sydney, for example, although people may have to sit in traffic for four hours to visit their local hardware shop, they can always walk to the pub afterwards to recuperate. There’s at least one pub in every suburb, with many sporting multiple facilities. In places like Balmain or Darlinghurst, there’s a pub for every four residents.
I live in the north of Canberra, and we don’t have a single pub. This is absolutely scandalous. There’s around 50,000 people in the Gungahlin region, and not a single proper pub.
Real pubs are local. Real pubs are live music. Real pubs don’t have poker machines. Real pubs have beer gardens so you can get sunburned and drunk at the same time. This is what is really lacking at the heart of Canberra. Pubs: sometimes dirty, occasionally dangerous, often friendly and always loud.
We do have a club or two. That’s not the proper way to celebrate Australian drinking culture. Clubs are bland. The décor is bland airport-chic. The music, also, is bland airport-chic. The beers are ordinary, the food is plain. There is no risky décor, no risky new music, no risky beers and no risky food. Apart from the pokies and the drink-drivers, clubs are strictly for the risk-averse. This, I dare suggest, is unAustralian!
So as Australia’s capital, we owe it to the nation to begin a major program of pub-building. One proper pub per suburb by 2020! At least two live music venues per major township! Vomit-coloured carpet by legislation! It’s our heritage. Let’s look after it.
[ED – I will note that the inner north and south both have a watering hole at nearly every local shops]