30 August 2023

Would you encourage someone to move to Canberra?

| Zoya Patel
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A brochure from the 1970s enticing public servants to live in Canberra. Fifty years later, some of these ancient stereotypes refuse to die. Image: Supplied.

A new acquaintance of mine has been shortlisted for an amazing job opportunity in Canberra. When I met up with her recently in Sydney, she asked me if Canberra was a good place to live and, if so, why? I immediately said yes, but then I found myself stalling when trying to explain what exactly I love about living here.

To someone who has grown up in the bustle of a big city and who has built a life in a suburb where she has access to the beach, shops, cafes, schools, and nature is a drive or bus away from an array of other environments, how do I pitch the unique lifestyle Canberra offers without making it sound sort of, well, boring?

“It’s very convenient,” I told her.

“You can get anywhere within 20 minutes to a half hour, and traffic is only bad during peak hour, and even that lasts for a pretty short period.” But are traffic conditions a good reason to move somewhere?

“I love being close to nature,” I said.

“How far are you from the beach?” she asked.

Well, we’re at least two hours from the beach, but we have lakes and mountains and sprawling nature reserves, I explained. It never feels claustrophobic, and we have so many options for exercise and outdoor activities.

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“What are the schools like?”

Right, well, this was an easier sell because we do have excellent public schools in Canberra. But then, recent NAPLAN results showed the worst outcome for ACT students in years, with 1 in 5 year 9 students at or below the NAPLAN minimum standards for reading.

“What are the best suburbs?”

I immediately listed all of the beautiful inner north suburbs I’ve lived in and loved – but the reality is, they’re not super affordable places to rent, and often the older houses in these areas are difficult to manage in winter with the cold and cost heaps in energy bills.

But given her criteria include nice local shops with a good cafe, lots of trees and parks, and generally the vibe of our more established suburbs, the more affordable places in Canberra can feel like concrete jungles.

In the end, I told her what I feel is the truest explanation of why Canberra has won my heart.

It’s not the most accessible place to initially move to, I explained. It can feel a little quiet, and many of my friends from interstate have said it’s been isolating to move here and not know where to find a community. But once you do find your people and a neighbourhood that suits you, there is so much to love.

It’s a logistically easy place to navigate, and we have access to good amenities and services that generally aren’t oversubscribed. There is space for kids to grow and experience sports and nature. We have national arts institutions that give us access to world-class exhibitions and programs. It’s a calm, enjoyable life, with Sydney just up the road and the coast not far away.

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Canberra isn’t an exciting sell. I can’t pitch it in a way that frames it as a vibrant city with the hallmarks of what we expect from those places – but we have a different sort of energy, one that had brought me more longer-term joy than the brief, exciting stints I’ve had in bigger cities.

Ultimately, I think Canberra is one of those places where you just have to give it a chance, and it’ll likely win you over.

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Canberra, it is not a hard sell at all. This city gives you time, something that cannot be bought and is invaluable to all.
It is undeniable that we are busier than before, traffic is increasing slightly in certain bottlenecks at peak times and high density housing supply is increasing, although we are living in a planned city with a current and future infrastructure plan that will allow it to grow.
To live in a city that is developing quickly, is progressive, sustainably focused and inclusive to all surely has a wider appeal and can easily be lauded by those looking to promote it to people contemplating a move from interstate or overseas.

HiddenDragon7:38 pm 31 Aug 23

“To someone who has grown up in the bustle of a big city and who has built a life in a suburb where she has access to the beach, shops, cafes, schools, and nature is a drive or bus away from an array of other environments..”

Anyone whose life truly is that sweet, and likely to stay that way, should be advised to stay put if a job opportunity (even one which looks “amazing”) is the only reason for contemplating a move to Canberra – this city already has more than enough people who are really only here for the work/money.

To be fair, work is the only real reason I moved here back in 2010. I haven’t anyone who moved to Canberra because it was their dream. It was almost always for work or uni, otherwise it was because they had family here or something.

I don’t mind Canberra but I’m not sure why you would move here of all places if you had no reason to do so and work wasn’t a major factor. If you like cities, move to a city. If you like the beach, live on the beach. If you like being close to nature, there are plenty of other places that fit that criteria.

GrumpyGrandpa6:45 pm 31 Aug 23

As someone who has lived here for 40 years, a lot has changed and sadly those changed aren’t all good.

We have become a Nanny State (Territory). Cats, Gas, Wood fires, ICE cars all restricted or to be phased out.
Expresso bus services cut, bus routes removed, weekend services only
2 hourly services on the weekend. Longest hospital wait times, housing prices are unaffordable – there is restricted supply because 70% of new homes are now apartments, renting is expensive (supply) and Government taxes such as Land Tax pushing prices, LR will be built regardless of the business case, you can grow your own weed and so on.

We have gone from a friendly big country town and are now resembling larger cities with their growth and planning problems.

Yes, it’s probably still better than the bigger cities, but smaller regional cities are looking more attractive.

Why would you move here to Canberra, the Tin Pot Regime is out of Control, its No GAS, No to Wood Heaters, and watch out ICE cars in the coming Years, no Stay away, Live your life be free, and have Freedom Of Choice. Your choice to Choose what You want in your Own Dwelling,

Gregg Heldon5:12 pm 31 Aug 23

I went for a walk today along Coolamon Ridge. Weston Creek spread out before me in its treed, leafy niceness. The water jet and Black Mountain tower in the distance. Horse Paddocks. Narrabundah Hill and its lovely walks. And thinking “this is what I love about Canberra “.
And then I saw the Molonglo Valley……

Tom Worthington4:57 pm 31 Aug 23

Canberra? “Safe place for the children”. “Well equipped retirement village”. “Somewhere to send the kids to study away from distractions”.

NO – the buggers might actually come here, increasing our congestion, decreasing our housing supply, and generally mucking up the place.

No I would not and my reason being the fools at the helm.

Peter Graves7:51 am 31 Aug 23

Well – that’s a good start, about the personal benefits of a small city not packed together that is also not stressful to get around. Remarkable not to mention the “national” aspects of Canberra being the capital of Australia and taking pride in that.

With places like the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery of historical faces, the National Museum telling us the stories of our nation, the National Library, the National Archives preserving our heritage, the Australian National University, plus a host of local entities to be discovered. Canberra is a place of exploration to find our hidden gems.

Reemebering too that Canberra was designed to be the national capital in the national interest – for all Australians.

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