Call to strangers: come to Canberra

MICHAEL Pedler is offering newcomers to Canberra “a weekend with friends that you haven’t met yet”.

He is heading up an ACT Rotary project – “Have You Ever Been to Canberra?”– that will host 100 visitors over the Centenary year who have never visited the city.

“Surprisingly, there are a lot of people in this country who have never been to their nation’s capital,” he says.

“We felt there was an opportunity to bring people here for the 100th anniversary celebration.

“That’s the main motivator – to bring people who’ve not had a chance to come for whatever reason. I guess the most obvious one is going to be socioeconomic, but it doesn’t have to be, it could just be circumstance.”

Intending applicants for “Have You Ever Been to Canberra?” need to nominate their interest via their local Rotary Club, or be nominated by someone else.

They will then stay with local Rotarians for a few days, see the sights and hopefully, leave with a new appreciation of Canberra.

Some might point out similarities to Australian Capital Tourism’s recent Human Brochure project, which selected people to visit Canberra and report on their experience through social media. But this is not about tourism, as such, says Michael.

“It’s about linking people,” he explains. “If there’s a tourism flow-on, then so be it, but the objective is to bring people to Canberra who’ve never been here, to see the national icons, meet the locals and, in some respects, to show that it’s more than a town of politicians, that real people live here and that there are interesting and fascinating things to see.”

Participants will be able to arrange a trip that is personalised to their interests, but also include any Centenary-related events that happen to be on.

“In a sense, it’s about spending a weekend with friends that you haven’t met yet,” says Michael.

“What we’re hoping is that individuals in the Canberra area might know someone who lives out of Canberra, who’s not been here and would like to come.

“We’d be certainly pleased to hear about them, and also we’d be very pleased to hear from local businesses who might be prepared to sponsor visits or just contribute some money to help with the subsidies for getting people here.”

So far, the ACT Government’s funding for the project stretches to a $200 subsidy for each visit, but Michael says Rotary would love to be able to cover everything.

“We’re not putting an upper limit on it, within reason, and if there’s money left over, we’ll find an appropriate way of using it. It is possible that this could be an ongoing project, if it becomes successful; and if we’ve got money left over that’s a chance to have a go again next year.”

To nominate someone from interstate for their first ever trip to Canberra, or to sponsor the “Have You Ever Been to Canberra?” project, email


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