Allan Takes Aim Blog

After 100 years has Canberra come of age?

Posted on: 12 March 2013

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After 100 years has Canberra come of age?

Monday, the 11th March, is the wrong day to celebrate Canberra’s birthday although it would sound mean to complain about celebrating it a day earlier because it gave Canberrans a long weekend holiday. That apart it has to be said that if celebrating Australia’s National Capital’s 100th birthday was so important, why wasn’t the rest of the nation part of the celebration?

You might also think it wrong that the ACT Government spent millions of dollars on a PR exercise saying Happy Birthday to Canberra on its 100th Birthday when millions of dollars are needed for important public facilities. Perhaps they did not just my mother did in my poor days of childhood when on Fridays she would often say: “to hell with poverty, put another herring in the pot.”

Though I haven’t yet reached the century mark myself (I am not saying I won’t because family is noted for its longevity) I think starting the celebration in January was a bit over the top. At the same time having seen birthdays come and go for many years, I wonder if the same thing will happen when Canberra reaches its second century and wonder too, if it will still be Australia’s Capital? Who knows? However of one thing I’m sure: if Canberra is still around in two hundred years not too many of its current citizenry will be around to enjoy the celebration.

This leads to my next question: 100 years from now will Canberra still be struggling to be recognised as a major city or, as Australia changes, will it have been overwhelmed and become an indulgence that Australia’s growing population says it cannot afford?

Regardless of the answer, Canberra’s landscape will change and upset those people locked into the present, and in some cases, the past. (Respectfully I request they get a copy of the book “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Harvard Professor of economics Edward Glaeser). The fact is that high rise residential and accommodation buildings will become as common in Canberra as they are in every other country in the world and if it wishes to survive, Canberra will have to go with the flow.

So is Canberra destined to become become a Corbusier style city of high rise buildings surrounded by green spaces? Let me add that being selfish as well as old, I have no wish to hasten that future but hope that, in time, the planners will come to realise that instead of being a linear city that presents a barren image Canberra will need to have street life that gives life to the urban reaction that not only thrives on messiness but at the same time also helps people experience the changing nature of a city. If its planners are not alive to this situation Canberra will be even more barren that some people think it is today

The mantra of many Canberrans who live off the government teat is that Canberra is Australia’s cultural capital because it has Australia’s best educated and most literate society. That may be true but having met many of these people over more than forty years I think they are driven to this thought by fear of having to work for a living.

However, it has been my greata fortune during these more than forty years to know many people who spent much of their own time and money advancing the cause of a range of the arts and other cultural activities. Indeed if anyone deserved to share in Canberra’s 100th birthday party, it is surely these people. I hope they got an invite? If they have I hope it turns out to be the best party they ever attended.

Finally, if you wonder why I make little mention of planned birthday activities it is because every local newspaper, radio and TV will be out in force covering them. I only hope the people covered are neither politicians looking for a radio or TV grab or pic in the paper nor Canberra’s many status seekers and social climbers who measure their contribution to Canberra’s progress by the number of times they appear or are reported in the social and gossip pages.
Comment welcome.


1 Response to "After 100 years has Canberra come of age?"

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