Canberra officially toasts 100 years

ON this day 100 years ago, a gloved Lady Gertrude Denman stood upon three foundation stones and carefully drew a card from her gold cigarette case,  announcing the name of Australia’s new capital would be Canberra.

Today, surrounding the same foundation stones, the centenary of Canberra was marked with an official re-enactment ceremony on the lawns of Parliament House.

As dignitaries rolled in, members of the public set up chairs and sat outside the grounds to watch on.

Guests of honour included Governor General Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Affairs and Local Government Minister Simon Crean and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who was invited to attend but not to speak, made a low-key entrance, slipping in to sit in the audience beside former Governor General Sir William Deane.

In her speech Prime Minister Gillard reflected on how the process of selecting a name for Canberra “was only the beginning.”

“The naming of Canberra completed a remarkable quartet of events – the idea, the site, the plan,” she said.

“For the nation, Canberra is our enduring capital. For the world it is a model of urban design and for locals it is simply our much-loved home.”

Ms Bryce recalled how Lord Thomas Denman gave the “best speech of his career” at the ceremony 100 years ago.

“The city of 2013, would surely meet and perhaps surpass, the hopes and expectations of Lord Denman and all those present at its foundation ceremony 100 years ago,” she said.

She said that once the name was chosen, a debate began about how the new capital should be pronounced.

The Governor -General’s husband, Michael Bryce, went on to explain how the debate was settled.

“The pragmatic decision finally reached was that whatever pronunciation Lady Denman used on the day would become the official version,” he said.

“And so it was. On this centenary day, Canberra it remains.”

And in a stark contrast to the alcohol-free ceremony 100 years earlier, glasses of champagne were placed in the hands of each audience member after official proceedings, to raise a toast to the capital.

Photos by Silas Brown.

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