19 April 2023

You know what's more boring than Canberra? Calling Canberra boring

| Zoya Patel
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cover of publication showing two women in front of Old parliament House in the 1970s

There was heaps to do in the 1970s – and even more today! Image: Supplied.

I’m obviously not averse to a clickbait headline. And I’m well aware when a piece of content is there to serve as the scaffolding for an advertisement. But I’d be lying if I said the headline of a News.com.au piece this week didn’t do my head in.

‘Boring Australian city everyone wants to visit’, the article by Shireen Khalil is titled. Before I even clicked on the link, I knew it would be about Canberra.

According to Khalil, when she told her friends she was heading to Canberra for a visit, they responded, “Why? It’s so boring there – there’s nothing to do”.

The article shows Khalil’s surprise at how evolved the city has become since her last visit in 2009 and cites a bunch of places to eat and drink (albeit very good places, which I do love to go to myself).

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Aside from my immediate rage at yet another piece about Canberra being dull that doesn’t even do basic lip service to the many things there are to do here, I was also irritated by the implication that every other city in Australia is a feast of delights in comparison.

You know what I find boring? Sitting for hours in traffic or on crowded public transport to go to landmarks that are impossible to fully enjoy because of the hordes of other people there, which has been my experience in other capital cities.

Yes, by virtue of larger populations and geographic reach, major cities are always going to have more events, more entertainment options and more venues than Canberra. But if that’s what you’re looking for, go to those cities. What Canberra offers is unique and goes beyond the usual activities that Khalil ticked off in her puff piece, which was focused on eating and shopping (though it’s worth mentioning that we do very well in both those categories!)

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I have a friend who recently moved to Canberra from overseas. He came here after marrying a local, and I’ll admit that I was worried at first about whether he would find a community in Canberra, with our reputation for being ‘boring’ and ‘cliquey’.

In fact, he’s so busy it’s hard to find a free night where we can catch up. He goes to live music events almost every week, has signed up for African drumming classes, was volunteering for the community organisation he now works for, goes for hikes and camping trips every other weekend, and just generally has a lovely beautiful life here.

Based on the bad rap Canberra gets, you’d expect that he would have been trudging through the barren wasteland of Civic, tumbleweeds skittering past as he desperately tried to find a friendly face or an activity to take his mind off his loneliness.

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I know this isn’t the first time this sort of anti-Canberra drivel has been published, and it certainly won’t be the last, but I do find it very boring that the rest of the country hasn’t yet caught onto what we have known here in Canberra forever, which is that Canberra, like any city, is only as engaging and interesting as you are.

Visitors who arrive and expect good experiences to fall into their laps are unlikely to have a fun time, but scratch the surface even a millimetre and it’s easy to discover that this is quite genuinely an incredible city, both to visit and live in.

What’s that saying again, the one parents have been wielding for generations? Oh yeah – only boring people get bored.

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Gregg Heldon12:13 pm 24 Apr 23

It used to be an exciting place. We moved here in 1975, when I was 8 and I loved it. Such a great place to discover and explore. Moved to Kambah in 76 and watching Tuggeranong grow was, again, exciting. Seeing all the Government landmark buildings establish (and working in a few too) was pretty special too.
Now, we seem to be a city of over priced restaurants, pretentious coffee shops, nail shops, ugly apartment blocks and massage joints that stay open until 11pm.
The simple things are the best in Canberra. A walk around a lake or along a bush track. Our weekend markets, the few places that have live rock music. The definition between each suburb.
Where are the things for kids to be excited about? Where are the new sports and recreation attractions for adults and kids alike, to be excited about? Where is the interesting, but not ugly interesting, architecture? Where is the new arts and culture venues? Especially in the suburbs and town centres? Where is the accessible support for people who need Canberra to be open to them (elderly, disabled, mentally injured or ill).
The way that Canberra has been developed recently has turned it into a mini concrete jungle that might be green and QR and pop up friendly, but has lost some of it’s humanity and community. You can feel very lonely and isolated in Canberra. Which is such a shame in a (still) small city.

HiddenDragon9:16 pm 20 Apr 23

Yes – it can be a good place to be desperately happy (or happily desperate) – but true happiness means not giving a flying duck about what other people say about where you live and how you live.

I was born in Canberra (many years ago) and have lived all over the world. I am happily back in Canberra and enjoying the bush, beach, city amenities and lack of traffic.

Last night I saw MacBeth, this weekend going I am star gazing and next week I will be watching top class football. I did not have to pay over a million dollars for my house and my kids walked to school without fear of crime. Boring – I don’t think so.

Capital Retro11:04 am 20 Apr 23

What’s more boring than Canberra?

Watching a soccer match with 0-0 result in Canberra.

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