In the last week I’ve had, online and face to face, discussions with a number of people who seem to think that the suburb of Theodore is some sort of war zone.
“Oh….you live in Theodore?” they say, “That must be rough.”
Theodore is one of those Canberra suburbs that’s not on the way to anything else. It’s on the south-eastern fringe of the city and has no connecting roads to other suburbs. The only reason people go to Theodore is to go to Theodore and as such it’s a place that many have never set foot in.
We moved to Theodore in December after nearly a decade living in Bonython and I have to say, if your perception of Theodore has been formed purely by reading recent headlines then you’ve probably got it wrong.
In 2019, my suburb has made the news for all of the wrong reasons, including extreme school bullying and gun violence. The stories of violence at Theodore Primary gathered such momentum that they were splashed over national newspapers as well as our local outlets.
The reports were extreme and could easily have led you to the conclusion that this was a dysfunctional community. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the courage and cohesion in the school community which led to these incidents coming to light. Similar problems exist in a number of other schools across the territory, but a group of Theodore Primary parents refused to accept the status quo and stood up for change.
My party supported those parents by calling for an independent inquiry into school violence in the ACT, but that was stymied by Labor and the Greens. I understand that those parents are now gathering support from others across the city with a petition calling for that inquiry.
While all that was bubbling away over the weekend, gunshots rung out in the Theodore Valley on Saturday night. My wife, Luisa and I were sitting at home watching a movie, but we clearly heard the commotion. I momentarily believed that it was a fireworks display, but quickly came to the conclusion that this was much more sinister.
The shooting was on Freda Gibson Circuit on the eastern side of the suburb. The street was in the news a number of years ago after a bikie-related shooting and many including myself jumped to the conclusion that this incident would be linked to outlaw motorcycle gangs. That remains to be seen and at the time of writing, the police investigation is ongoing.
Whatever that investigation uncovers, my discussions with Theodore residents lead me to the conclusion that the suburb overwhelmingly supports the introduction of anti-consorting laws to deal with the explosion of bikie-related violence right across our city.
Theodore is not the wild west. It’s just a gorgeous bush suburb nestled in its own valley and populated by a wonderful community of families and individuals. We love it for the wonderful views, the amazing variety of birdlife that come to our backyard and for the sense of community. We certainly don’t regret making the move.
This is the first time since my days growing up in the bush that I’ve known virtually everybody who lives on my street. This is a place where neighbours talk and where community is real.
But the thing that drew us to Theodore is the proximity to bush. The fire trail that surrounds the suburb genuinely signals the edge of suburbia. Once you climb up to Tuggeranong Hill or any of the other peaks in that line, you’re greeted with views of rolling hills, mobs of kangaroos and the sounds of black cockatoos and kookaburras in close proximity.
From there you can stroll on down to the Lanyon Valley, to the Monaro Highway or out to the Rob Roy Range Nature Reserve. In essence, once you clear that initial ridge, you could easily be in the middle of nowhere.
My many dog walks in the suburban streets has led me to conclude that Theodore has an extremely high per capita ownership rate of dogs, four wheel drives and boats and to me, that translates to a great place to live.
Don’t believe the naysayers. Theodore is the bee’s knees.
Mark Parton is a Member for Brindabella in the ACT Legislative Assembly.