WHEN first declared a township in 1838, there were about 40 residents of Queanbeyan, and farming was the main game in the region. That all changed after the turn of the century when it was decided that a national capital was needed.
According to mayor Tim Overall, many prominent Queanbeyanites lobbied hard for their region to be the site for the capital but when asked, residents voted strongly against joining it inside the Federal Capital Territory (the original name of the ACT).“Queanbeyan has had a significant role in the development of the national capital, not just in the provision of retail and business services to the fledgling tent city, but health services were also most significant, as well as construction workers and tradespeople as Canberra went through its boom in the ‘20s, and again in the late ‘60s and ‘70s,” Overall says.
As part of Queanbeyan’s 175th anniversary celebrations, he is presenting Canberra with a 100th birthday gift in the form of a sundial made by artist Hendrik Forster for the National Arboretum, to be unveiled at 11am on Friday, September 27.
“It represents time immemorial, Queanbeyan and Canberra’s shared history and our shared location,” the mayor explains. “It’s located on top of Dairy Farmer’s Hill, overlooking Canberra with Queanbeyan in the distance, marking the special relationship.”
During Canberra’s infancy, he says, the “special relationship” wasn’t always smooth sailing, especially in the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“When the major boom that had taken place in Canberra came to an end, Queanbeyan residents were actually discriminated against for employment opportunities in the national capital… preference was given to people who resided in Canberra, which made it difficult for a lot of Queanbeyan families,” explains Overall.
But with both cities going on to prosper to each other’s mutual benefit, that’s all water under the bridge.
Lots to celebrate
CANBERRA’S birthday bash has been and gone but the Centenary is not the only municipal milestone in our neck of the woods this year. Over in NSW, Queanbeyan’s 175th is just around the corner.
A big community party takes over the city on September 28, kicking off at 11am with a parade led by police and naval officers from the base beside the border, HMAS Harman, who have been granted the historic honour of “freedom of entry” to the city to mark the occasion.
Following the sailors down Macquoid Street, the city’s former main drag, is a procession billed as “a cavalcade of historic vehicles”, which goes past some old cottages that are Queanbeyan’s oldest buildings.Among this moving timeline of transportation technology will be a slightly sombre horse-drawn hearse and a 110-year-old wagon, pulled by a team of bullocks who hail from Tomerong on the south coast.
The Melbourne Cup trophy, which is handmade each year from 18-carat gold and tours the nation in anticipation of the famous race, will also join the parade and stay parked beside the main stage throughout the festivities in Ray Morton Park on the eastern bank of the river.
Nearby Wanniassa Park will host a vintage car display and as the street parade draws to an end, the food and fun starts up with a multicultural dance show and kids entertainment like storytelling and hobby horse races for the rest of the day.
By then, construction of the town’s five-layer birthday cake should be well underway, thanks to veteran local baker Lorraine Kiewiet, in time for her part-chocolate, part-fruitcake creation to be cut during during the birthday speeches, which start from 1.30pm.
The formalities include a welcome to country and smoking ceremony with local indigenous leaders as well as the unveiling of all the new smells, sights and sounds of the city’s brand new Sensory Gardens, from Aboriginal totem poles to giant musical instruments and a “life-size Chinese puzzle game”.
Then there’s the concert with rapper Omar Musa, twin sisters Brittany and Courtney Menegon, otherwise known as RubyIce, and hip-hop duo Stick n’ Move.
“It’s all going to culminate with the biggest fireworks display in Queanbeyan’s history,” says the mayor.