ON the lush lawns of the Royal Canberra Golf Club, three people meet for the first time – each with a very different connection to Canberra.
One has been living long enough to witness its beginning, another shares its birthday. And the smallest, not quite able to speak for herself yet, came into the world just in time to celebrate its centenary year.
Ellen Heath, Paula Thomas and newborn Annabel Ekin-Smyth will join thousands of Canberrans to celebrate the city’s 100th birthday on March 12.
An array of events centred around Lake Burley Griffin have been planned on the eve of the Centenary, including the world’s longest bubbly bar, live symphony orchestras and indie bands, giant board games, free ferries over to Commonwealth Place and, of course, fireworks to top off the evening.
Ellen, 102, moved to Canberra from England in 1971, and since then she has seen two generations grow here.
“This is such a nice city, a good place to settle down,” she says.
“I think you can give your children a good start in life here, and a generous future.”
Paula, who turns 50 on March 12, says she is proud to share her birthday with a city she has such a special connection with.
“My husband reminded me that I will be exactly half the age of Canberra,” she laughs.
“I love it and have been living here for over 30 years. My kids were born here, my son was married here, we plan to retire here, and hopefully my grandchildren will be born here.”
And at just two months, Annabel already has impeccable timing – she was the first baby born in the centenary year, delivered at 12.01am on New Year’s Day.
“She literally arrived just in time to celebrate,” laughs mum Natalie.
“It’s really special to us because I was born in Canberra too, and think it’s a great place to bring up our family. We hope she continues to live here as she grows older, and maybe one day looks back and appreciates how special it is to be born in this centenary year.”
Canberra’s own birth wasn’t a simple one. Shortly after American architect Walter Burley Griffin won a competition to design its layout in 1913, the difficult search to name the capital began. Some of the hundreds of suggestions included Olympus, Paradise and Captain Cook. Eventually the name Canberra was settled on, said to derive from the various English renditions of the name of the indigenous people of the area, the Ngambri. At midday on March 12, 1913, the city was officially named by Lady Denman at a ceremony on Kurrajong Hill, now known as Capital Hill.
Fourteen years later, Canberra’s iconic Parliament House opened, serving as the home of Federal parliament until 1988 when the new Parliament House was established.
“Canberra’s Big Bash”, March 11, from midday until late. Full schedule of events at canberra100.com.au/