Canberra is Australia’s capital city. It is Australia’s biggest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall, with a population of 381,488. The city is situated in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 kilometers (170 miles) south-west of Sydney and 660 kilometers (410 miles) north-east of Melbourne. A Canberran is referred to as a “Canberran.”
Canberra was chosen as the site for the nation’s capital in 1908 as a compromise between Australia’s two major cities, Sydney and Melbourne. It is unique among Australian cities in that it is a completely planned city outside of any state, analogous to Washington, D.C. in the United States or Brasilia in Brazil. Following an international design competition, a layout by Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was chosen, and building began in 1913. The Griffins’ design included geometric elements including circles, hexagons, and triangles, and was centered on axes aligned with major topographical points in the Australian Capital Territory.
The garden city concept impacted the city’s architecture, which features considerable amounts of natural vegetation, earning Canberra the nickname “bush capital.” Canberra’s growth and development were hampered by World Wars and the Great Depression, which worsened a series of planning conflicts and the ineffectiveness of a succession of agencies formed un turn to manage the city’s development. Following World War II, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies championed its development, and the National Capital Development Commission was established with executive powers. Despite the fact that the Australian Capital Territory is now self-governing, the Commonwealth Government maintains considerable control through the National Capital Authority.
Canberra serves as the capital of the Australian government and is home to Parliament House, the official house of the Monarch’s representative, the Governor-General, the High Court, and several government ministries and organizations. It also houses several national social and cultural institutions, including the Australian War Memorial, the Australian National University, the Royal Australian Mint, the Australian Institute of Sport, the National Gallery, the National Museum, and the National Library. The officer corps of the Australian Army is trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, while the Australian Defence Force Academy is also situated in Canberra.
The ACT is autonomous of any state in order to prevent any one state from acquiring an advantage by hosting the Commonwealth’s seat of power. The ACT, like the states, has voting representation in the Commonwealth Parliament as well as its own autonomous Legislative Assembly and administration.
Because the city has a high concentration of public personnel, the Commonwealth Government provides the greatest percentage of Gross State Product and is the city’s biggest single employer, albeit it is no longer the majority employer. The unemployment rate is lower and the average income is greater than the national average; tertiary education levels are higher, and the population is younger. Property prices are quite expensive, owing in part to rather tight development laws.