I’M fortunate to have grown up in Canberra. Like many, my childhood memories feature the fun of bike riding around the lake, the thrill of going to the cosmopolitan cinema with friends in the school holidays, the queasiness of driving down the twisty Clyde Mountain to get to the coast.
That was until Canberra got “totally boring” as a teen and I declared that Canberra was a “hole”. This was in 1999, mind you.
So I saw the new millennium in, making sure that Y2K didn’t crash every computer and us all into oblivion, danced the night away at the Gypsy Bar (remember that place?) and then I promptly moved to Sydney.
Fast forward 18 years and I have returned with a husband, son and daughter, a career, an SUV and a whole lot of “stuff”.
And, boy, has Canberra changed, at least through the lens I am now seeing it with.
Canberra is tremendously child-friendly, I am pleased to report.
The sweet spots of my childhood – the Yarralumla train, Kambah adventure playground, Questacon’s amazing preschool section “Mini Q” and Floriade, are a delight to rekindle with my kids.
The new places we have enjoyed so far have been impressive:
PlayUP at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Old Parliament House is an inviting indoor space designed for imaginative play and, at only $2 for entry, it’s a great wet-weather alternative if your nervous system and budget won’t extend to an indoor play centre.
PlayUP’s rather lofty principle to encourage kids to explore the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child went over my preschoolers’ heads but it makes for some great content and reading materials for the grown-ups. The large-sized building blocks, crafts, comfy reading areas and play kitchen are a hit with my kids. I had to sneak my coffee upstairs (sshhh, don’t tell..) but the Old Parliament House cafe is a good starting point for morning tea before heading to PlayUP.
Boundless, The Centenary of Canberra National Playground down by the lake, is another gem of a play space, an all-abilities playground with state-of-the-art play equipment on which children of all ages and abilities can play safely and inclusively. It is Canberra’s most popular playground, according to a recent University of Canberra report.
Fully gated with toilet and change facilities (which is a huge tick), my kids spent a lot of time on Boundless’ roundabout, swings and the unique sensory garden.
It’s the first of its kind here and a wonderful example of public and private enterprise chipping in to make this special community space happen.
I’m particularly interested to see how stage two of the playground’s plans will roll out, with the plan to build a nearby kiosk as a social enterprise, to not only support the caffeine needs of sleep-deprived parents but, more importantly, to help young people with disability gain training and employment. Amazing idea.
I am thrilled to be home and look forward to sharing my “ex-pat” observations with you as my young family discovers my old/new home town.
Kate Meikle is a staff writer and director of “CityNews”